No, that’s not a repeat you’re seeing on the news.
Congress really is about to vote on yet another continuing resolution – its fourth in a row since the fiscal year started. But you can ignore the legislative speak and just remember that “continuing resolution” is shorthand for “Congress didn’t do its job.”
This funding measure lumps together the spending for all 12 departments of the federal government into a huge bill and continues to fund them without reforming or eliminating any wasteful spending.
The powers that be say, "Either vote to continue the deficit spending or shut the government down." While I don’t want to shut down the federal government, I also don’t want to keep open a government that borrows a million dollars every minute.
This year, the government will borrow nearly a trillion dollars. The overall debt now exceeds $20 trillion and threatens our national security. We have already had one shutdown, and we are now a third of the way through our fiscal year with no real budget in sight.
When was the last time Congress passed all of their spending bills? 1997. Only four times in 41 years has Congress done its job. That’s absurd.
It’s also unsustainable and a reckless abandonment of our responsibility – one that threatens our national security and limits our economic potential.
Last year, David Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States, told the Senate Federal Spending Oversight Subcommittee that, "Excessive levels of debt as a percentage of the economy can serve to reduce economic growth and job opportunities. It can also cause a ‘crisis of confidence’ in the U.S. dollar and much higher interest rates if the market ever decides that the federal government has lost control of its finances and is not willing to regain control over them."
The nearly $300 billion in interest we pay on the debt alone could fund seven cabinet departments and multiple agencies — combined.
Governing by continuing resolution allows this debt to keep piling up with no end in sight, and it also cripples our chance to get government’s wasteful spending under control through regular review and serious oversight of how federal agencies are using your money.
Just this week, another reminder of the urgency of the situation hit the headlines when Politico reported that the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency has “lost track of hundreds of millions” of taxpayer dollars, having “failed to properly document more than $800 million in construction projects.”
One can only imagine what the first-ever full-scale financial audit of the Department of Defense will uncover – even as politicians pour on the pressure of a shutdown to demand we approve more spending regardless. Under the House-passed continuing resolution, the Department of Defense would be the only area funded for a full year. While defending this nation is our top constitutional priority, we are not making our country stronger by breaking our budget rules time and again.
Over the years, my office has identified billions in wasted taxpayer funds, including more than $560 million of waste in our recent Festivus report, which featured stories such as the IRS failing to recover nearly $80 million in “unallowable expenses” to government contractors, and our government spending more than $200 million building roads in Afghanistan while our own infrastructure lags behind in repairs.
But instead of reining in such abuse across government through the regular appropriations process, we are expected to bust the caps, ignore any restraint, and keep making our situation worse.
I’m not going to take it anymore. Leadership says, “Take it or leave it. Either vote for more debt or shut down the government."
I think there’s another way. That’s why I’ve introduced my Government Shutdown Prevention Act. My bill forces Congress to act or lose funding. If Congress doesn’t pass the individual appropriation bills as they are supposed to, government spending will be cut 1 percent.
It may not seem like much, but cutting 1 percent a year balances the budget in four years.
On Tuesday, my Federal Spending Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Ways of Funding Government.”
I can’t think of a better way to describe out-of-control deficit spending, and I am urging the full committee to help stop this cycle and advance reform by voting on my legislation.
During Tuesday's hearing, Dr. Alice Rivlin, former director of the Office of Management and Budget and currently a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, thanked the subcommittee for calling “attention to the total breakdown of federal budgetary policy-making.” She went on to observe that she believed “this breakdown is a serious threat to our democracy and to America’s future prosperity.”
It’s high time someone says, “Enough is enough,” and fixes our terrible, no good, very bad budgetary process.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, is the junior U.S. senator from Kentucky. He chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management. You can follow him on Twitter: @RandPaul.