Naughty and Nice: government spending edition
Lawmakers take hundreds of votes each year, and make dozens of speeches and countless radio and television appearances. Do they have good days and bad days? Great ideas and really awful ones? Sure. But we can’t think of a single Member of Congress who can fairly be characterized as either wholly “naughty,” or certainly, wholly “nice.” But in making our list – and checking it twice – there were a few legislative maneuvers, quotes and votes that stood out as worthy of recognition. So, here are our picks for Congress’ naughtiest, and nicest, acts this year.
Failure to Pass a Budget or a Single Appropriations Bill. For the first time since Congress began budgeting, the House failed to pass – or even to write — a budget. Congress also failed to finalize a single appropriations bill. Rep. John Spratt (D-SC), who chaired the House Budget Committee, paid the ultimate price for the historic budget failure: his seat in Congress.
Voting Against a Fiscal Commission with Teeth. The Senators voted down a version of a Fiscal Commission that would have required Congress to vote on the Commission’s recommendations. It chose instead to support a Commission with no real “teeth.”
Campaigning on Fiscal Restraint; Voting for Earmarks. Their party ran on a platform of fiscal restraint, but eight Republicans found it impossible even to take a first step. In a vote taken just weeks after the 2010 election, Sens. Bob Bennett (UT), Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (MN), James Inhofe (OK), Richard Lugar (IN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Richard Shelby (AL.) and George Voinovich (OH) all voted against a two-year ban on earmarks.
Understanding Washington’s True Addiction: Sen. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Sen. George Lemieux (R-FL), who are both retiring after this year, understand Washington has a spending problem, not a tax problem. Sen. Lemieux proposed a plan to reduce federal spending to 2007 levels. Sen. Bayh has been a consistent voice for fiscal restraint.
Finding Ways to Reduce Uncertainty: Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) recently wrote a very compelling op-ed in The Washington Post on the consequences of federal overregulation. He’s currently writing legislation that would require agencies to eliminate one regulation for every one it wants to add.
We’re reserving judgment on these actions until we see if these leaders come through on their promises.
Discretionary spending freeze: In his State of the Union address President Obama promised a three-year freeze on discretionary spending. We’ll let you know if Congress cooperates.
Getting another chance: Speaker-elect John Boehner (R-OH) and his Republican colleagues in the House won a second chance in November. While the party’s “Pledge to America” was short on specific spending cuts, the rhetoric is good. Still we’re reserving judgment until the party has a year of governing under its belt.