Over at Politico, Burgess Everett has a story this morning that says Congress deserves credit for doing routine things like passing some (but not all) of the appropriations for the coming year.
I have a very different take: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should be arrested and jailed for not even trying to comply this year with the budget laws that apply to Congress.
The chairmen of the two budget committees — Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) — should be jailed for the same reason.
And I’d have every member of Congress talk about this at the start of every speech they give in their state or district and every candidate raise it prominently at their campaign rallies so their audiences can rhythmically chant “Lock’em up.”
The congressional budget process is not supposed to be optional. It’s a law created by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 that Congress is required to implement every year.
This is Conspiracy to Commit Budget Noncompliance in the First Degree
(Before you think this was an initiative enacted by Democrats in 1974 to embarrass the GOP in 2018, keep in mind that the budget act passed more than four decades ago with a level of bipartisanship that today is both unimaginable and quaint. It was approved unanimously in the Senate, with just six no votes in the House and signed into law by a Republican president.)
But led by Ryan, McConnell, Enzi and Womack, the GOP-controlled Congress this year isn’t complying with the budget act. To the contrary, the Republican congressional leadership intentionally decided not to do the most important thing the law requires — adopting a budget resolution for the coming fiscal year.
The budget resolution is the only part of the annual budget-spending-tax process that Congress is legally required to do. Appropriations and tax legislation is completely discretionary.
Ryan and friends decided to break the law and not do a budget resolution for totally political reasons. The revenue and spending policies the GOP has put in place since the last budget was adopted have ballooned the budget deficit and national debt. Not doing a fiscal 2019 budget resolution meant that House and Senate Republicans avoid having to vote in favor of those deficits before the election and stops them from handing a very-tough-to-explain issue to their Democratic opponents.
The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act was adopted to prevent this exact thing from happening. Until it was put in place, representatives and senators voted for the tax cuts and spending increases that spiked the deficit and debt but were never required to vote on a single bill that showed the impact of those votes.
An annual budget resolution was supposed to be the answer to this problem. For the first time in American history, members of Congress were legally required to go on record on the deficit and debt so their constituents would know where they stood and could vote accordingly.
Compounding the crime of no budget resolution is the fact that this was an intentional decision by Ryan, McConnell, Enzi and Womack rather than, as has happened in the past, an inadvertent byproduct of the House and Senate or Republicans and Democrats not being able to come to an agreement.
That makes this a far more serious — Conspiracy to Commit Budget Noncompliance in the First Degree — and its leaders should be locked up immediately.
Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy