Lawmakers Monday night produced a detailed spending plan for the first time in years that will fund the federal government through September and end the haphazard approach that has characterized congressional budgeting as of late.
The $1.012 trillion omnibus appropriations bill funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year and provides federal agencies with the guidance and stability they have been lacking as Washington has gone from one stopgap funding bill to another, several times going to the brink – and once beyond – of a government shutdown. Read a summary here.
Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Appropriations Chair Hal Rodgers (R-KY) released the bill Monday night after several weeks of intense negotiations. The legislation builds on the framework agreed to by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) late last year.
Fix the Debt praised the agreement in a statement:
We applaud Chairman Mikulski and Chairman Rogers for coming to consensus on a bill that not only avoids another government shutdown, but makes real decisions about how to fund the government in a fiscally-responsible manner. Their compromise follows the bipartisan example set by the Ryan-Murray budget legislation enacted in December. We encourage the House and Senate to pass this legislation as soon as possible so that Congress can turn its attention to other pressing fiscal issues.
The current stopgap measure funding the government expires on Wednesday. In order to allow some time for the House and Senate to consider and vote on the legislation, another continuing resolution providing three more days of funding will be offered. The House votes on that bill on Tuesday. The full omnibus should clear Congress by the end of the week.
The agreement restores some sanity to a budget and appropriations process that had become dysfunctional in recent years. Read how the process is supposed to work here.
Approving a budget is one of the essential functions of government. Congress has reached all-time lows in approval ratings because lawmakers have been unable to work together and perform basic duties such as agreeing on a budget. This bill gets Congress back on track in a critical area.
The bill also provides some (very minimal) deficit reduction. Again, this is movement in the right direction. But much more work will be required to build on the new momentum.
As policymakers turn to other issues, they will be wise to remember how bipartisan cooperation is necessary to achieving success as well as the continued need for fiscal responsibility.