According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) since 1977 there have only been four years in which Congress did not need to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded beyond the end of the federal fiscal year (September 30). Those years were 1977, 1989, 1995 and 1997.
While that is an interesting fact, the CRS statistic most hard to believe is that “Since FY1997, …, continuing resolutions have been enacted on average about six times per fiscal year.”
“Look for areas of agreement”
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “.. always like(s) to remind people that divided government is not unusual in this country,” and “When the American people choose divided government I don’t think it means they don’t want us to do anything, I think it means they want us to look for areas of agreement.” While Leader McConnell is correct about having divided government, the worrisome part is how Members of Congress respond to the volatility and polarization.
“No Republican should speak ill of another Republican”
Thirty-five years ago amidst a divided legislative and executive branch former President Ronald Reagan espoused the 11th Commandment that “no Republican should speak ill of another Republican.” Fast forward to today and it seems like a few junior Members of Congress, under a self-imposed banner of “conservatism,” cannot get to a microphone fast enough to demagogue and cast blame on Republican’s who they view as too moderate. Some go as far as supporting changing the time-honored Senate rules, which equates to moving the goalposts in a football game when your team cannot score.
With such responses exacerbating the already heightened polarization any partisan issues that surface can stop work on spending bills. There is nothing to gain from such grandstanding except for a few minutes in the latest news cycle.
A 4 Month Reprieve
On average, CRs provide funding for federal government agencies for four months each fiscal year. Continuing resolutions are difficult for management of federal agencies. Federal agencies operating under CRs typically spend those first four months of a new fiscal year spending cautiously until they know new appropriations bills are forthcoming. However, this cautious spending approach does not afford agencies’ to fund new programs and other priorities that may surface.
IMPACT: Disrupted Budgets = Less Safe Foods?
One of Cansler Consulting clients works with one of the few federal agencies responsible for biological programs that deliver a public benefit of ensuring an abundant, affordable and safe food and fiber supply for the U.S. and the world. Any variation or disruption in budgets for biological programs hinder needed consistencies in combating known and unanticipated threats to the food and fiber production in the U.S.
With consistent mandatory program funding systems can be enhanced to prevent such things as an initial introduction of an invasive species. When a pest or disease is detected early, respective plant health officials throughout the U.S. can respond rapidly to eradicate the outbreak before it has a chance to become established or spread to other areas. The outcome is significant cost savings, as it avoids the high costs of a long-term management program and helps maintain access to international markets for U.S. plants and plant products and reduces the costs of quarantine regulatory programs on effected industries.
IMPACT: Disrupted Budgets = Destruction of Forests?
Another client of Cansler Consulting maintains a contract to supply fire fighting equipment to the federal government. Consistent federal funding of agencies is important to private contractors who need some certainty in the continuation of the purchasing relationship and managing appropriate inventories and manufacturing schedules. This affords continued, uninterrupted protection from wildfires that destroy homes, timber, wildlife habitat and watersheds that provide needed drinking water for millions of people.