September 30, 2013

Members of Congress don’t work hard for the money

Members of the U.S. House and Senate have already earned $130,000 for their work, but they can’t produce a single government spending. It is beyond understanding that lawmakers must pile almost all spending into one bill, making disputes such as the one over Obamacare inevitable.

Kevin Yoder is the only member of the House of Representatives from Kansas or Missouri who sits on the Appropriations Committee, the group charged with writing the government’s spending bills.

Usually, the word

powerful is attached to the committee, as in “Yoder is a member of the powerful

House Appropriations Committee.”

The adjective is quite wrong. In fact, the Appropriations Committee may be one the least powerful groups in Washington.

We know this because Congress hasn’t passed a single 2014 spending bill this year. Not one. No spending bill for the nation’s defense. Homeland security. Veterans. Energy. Education. Health. Justice. Other government functions. Not a dime.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is particularly bad — it hasn’t voted on


of 12 required spending bills. The Republican-controlled House is marginally better, taking votes on four of the 12 bills.

No spending bill, though, has cleared both the House and Senate and become law this year.

Of course, it isn’t Yoder’s fault that the government can’t decide how to spend its money. On Monday, he expressed frustration with the poor record, conceding that the House, and especially the Senate, should pick up the pace.

But there’s blame enough for everyone. Members of Congress have collected roughly $130,000 in salary this year but haven’t reached agreement on a single spending bill in

nine months


Let’s be clear: Many functions of government, including billions of dollars in spending, can go forward without legislative approval, but spending decisions are among the most basic responsibilities of Congress. It is beyond understanding that its members must resort to piling almost all government spending into one bill, making bitter disputes such as the one over Obamacare inevitable.

It’s a sorry strategy. It causes disruptions, additional expense, confusion for federal workers and disgust among taxpayers.

There’s a chance Congress will revisit spending legislation and actually make a few choices in the months ahead. More likely, though, we’ll see a series of catch-all spending bills with more confusion, threats and government shutdowns.

In a better world, we could complain about this. Perhaps we could take our concerns to the


House Appropriations Committee.

But its members — and all of Congress — probably would be too busy to listen as they turn the government into sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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