The Resolutionary War

by Mark Steyn

Further to my post below on the specific point of the power of the purse, it’s worth noting more generally that government-by-continuing-resolution is a real banana-republic racket entirely unbecoming to any mature society. Robert Stacy McCain in The American Spectator:

Here’s a simple question: Why are we currently funding the federal government through a series of short-term measures known as “continuing resolutions”?

The answer is that the budgeting process has completely broken down in recent years, and the two men most responsible for that breakdown are President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For three consecutive years — 2010, 2011, and 2012 — the Democrat-controlled Senate did not pass a budget bill because Reid knew that it would be a political liability to do so. Passing a budget that detailed the Democrats’ plans for spending and revenue as official policy would have exposed the “something for nothing” swindle that Reid and his colleagues are perpetrating on the American people.

That’s true. The first term of the Obama era gave us Scandinavian levels of spending with American levels of taxation — an unsustainable contradiction that would have been more difficult to pass off without the Dems’ we-don’t-need-no-steenkin’-budgets feint. But, again, they were only able to pull that off because of the utter degeneration of the broader budgeting process. Angelo Codevilla:

Since the Middle Ages, the first and most basic restraint on arbitrary government has been the people’s power to decide how much money the government will spend, and for what purposes. The US Constitution puts it this way: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of Appropriations made by law” (Art. I sect.9). Nowadays however our bipartisan ruling class limits the Congress’ opportunity to approve, disapprove, or modify what the government does, to voting on “Continuing Appropriations Resolutions” – single, all-inclusive bills crafted behind closed doors. Then it cynically asks the people’s representatives: “will you agree to laws no one has read, to programs on the continuation of which you have not voted, and to regulations that haven’t been written yet, or will you shut down the government?” This turns democracy into a choice between tyranny and anarchy.

America’s much vaunted “checks and balances” are only as good as the political class’ deference to them. In Congress, the constitutional order has been largely replaced by procedural legerdemain by thug operators. It’s unseemly and pathetic.