Hopelessly Lost…But Making Good Time

By the end of this week, the House appropriations committee hopes to have reported out all 12 of the annual appropriations bills. Rank-and-file lawmakers would then be given a few days to study the bills while the appropriators combine them into a single bill that would be passed before the August recess.

Wait, what?

Yes, that’s the process set out during a July 14 closed-door meeting of House Republicans. GOP lawmakers were told to take the weekend to read the bills and ponder how much time would be saved if the House passed a single, 1,600-plus page omnibus appropriations bill.

(It took me nearly three weeks to slog through Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and that was only 667 pages!)

Whether or not House lawmakers agree to the plan—and we should know in a few days—the fact that this scheme is even up for discussion says a lot about the state of legislative stewardship these days.

First and foremost, the fact that it was a junior appropriator, Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), who first raised the idea, is a symbolic dagger in the heart of a committee with a longstanding tradition of following regular order.

Second, how could rank-and-file lawmakers willingly give up opportunities to scrutinize over a trillion dollars of spending, let alone weigh in with their own priorities—priorities their constituents sent them Washington to advocate? They might as well sign up for auto-pay when sworn into office.

Lastly, why would GOP leaders, who fought so hard for their majorities, forgo the opportunity to actually govern?

Granted, Executive branch transitions can be disruptive, especially from one national party to another. But Congress can usually be relied upon to lend a measure of stability to a time-tested process.

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