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Continuing resolutions are undermining Congress’ right (and responsibility) to operate

In 2016, congressional Republicans blocked legislation and appointments under President Obama by arguing that decisions should await the voters’ verdict in that year’s presidential election. Five years later, Republicans have flipped their logic to undermine the efforts of the newly elected president and the Democratic majorities in Congress. The consequence of their approach is even worse than their logic.

While the legislative language is somewhat archaic, the Republicans’ tactic is easy to explain. Rather than pass a budget based on bills introduced and debated by this Congress, Republicans are refusing to negotiate — instead forcing Congress to adopt a budget via a so-called “continuing resolution.” Under a continuing resolution, spending priorities and amounts are carried over from the previous fiscal year. The irrefutable result is that the Republicans are angling to have the national government adhere to a budget promoted by the previous administration and enacted by the previous Congress.

This most certainly is not the change the country voted for in 2020.

As someone who came to Congress after operating a large business, I am floored by how illogical this is. In successful businesses, the current leadership creates budgets based on current facts and circumstances. The budgeting process is a vehicle for change, providing an opportunity to spend more on things that work and eliminate spending on ones that don’t. On the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve used my experience to take this approach, advocating for decisions that make sense for the prosperity of our country and the people we represent. It’s their money, after all.

Adopting a continuing resolution would mean vital programs would either not be expanded — or worse — not be funded at all. The National Institutes of Health would not receive $3 billion to establish the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health to speed up research to improve the health of all Americans. The National Cancer Institute would not receive an additional $432 million, including $194 million for the Cancer Moonshot. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would lose out on $3.14 billion for critical investments, including responding to the opioid epidemic that claimed 100,000 lives in the last year.

What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would not receive the $2.7 billion boost it needs in its continuing efforts on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. This neglect is unconscionable in the face of a global pandemic, mental health crisis, and record drug overdose fatalities. The list is even longer in areas of need related to climate change, military veterans (a $7 billion shortfall there), and many more.

Personally, I fought for over $6 million to directly benefit Maryland’s 6th District by, among other things, expanding broadband in Garrett County and funding crisis stabilization centers in Washington and Frederick counties. Under a continuing resolution, that funding and those projects won’t happen.

On the other hand, one need not go this far to recognize payments that the country would be forced to make that virtually no one wants and almost no one will defend. For example, one carryover from last year’s Trump budget would be funding for active operations in Afghanistan – even though our troops were withdrawn from the county this summer – as well as construction of the southern border wall.

The Republicans’ tactics look no better when viewed through the lens of our representative democracy. Republicans seem determined to force the country to live with the spending priorities of a president who holds the embarrassing record of having had more votes cast against him than any incumbent president or any presidential candidate in history.

I was elected in this Congress to fight for our district and country’s priorities for this year. Our funding model should do the same.

Perhaps the best evidence that this is a bad idea is that our country’s business leaders, community advocates, and the top brass of our military say that the uncertainty and impracticality of a continuing resolution makes their jobs unnecessarily difficult.

Everyone but Republicans still living in the Trump era realizes a continuing resolution is bad for the country.

This is not the way our government should work, no matter who’s in power. I sincerely hope my colleagues will come to the table to negotiate and enact a budget that reflects the moment we’re in.

Trone represents Maryland’s 6th District and is a member of the House Committee on Appropriations.

Tags Appropriations Barack Obama Budget Continuing resolution

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