The Corner

Re: Boehner: End Comprehensive Spending Bills

Boehner’s idea sounds pretty similar to one I advocate (sub. req’d.) in the latest issue of NR:

[O]ne thing the new congressmen, and their friends in the tea parties, might be wise to do is to change the way Congress enacts spending legislation. It passes 13 big appropriations bills that fund all of the government except for the entitlement programs. This method of budgeting arguably works in favor of pro-spending interests.

For one thing, each spending program does not need to command majority support in the legislature to receive funding; it just has to be included in a bill that has majority support. And if the president wants more funds for one of his priorities, he can veto the entire bill — shutting down a portion of the government, including programs that most congressmen favor. The example of the Gingrich–Clinton standoff over the budget in 1995 and 1996 suggests that the political reaction to a shutdown works in the president’s favor.

If Congress broke up these big spending bills into many smaller ones, the balance of power would change. Congressmen would have less incentive to support bloated spending on one program to secure funding for their own programs. A fiscally conservative House majority could identify the lowest funding level that could attract 218 votes for each small spending bill. Or it could simply fail to include some programs in any appropriations bill, leaving Obama with no money to spend on those programs and nothing to veto. It might be possible to defund — or, rather, not fund in the first place — parts of Obamacare in this way.

Any such change to the budget rules would require overcoming the entrenched members of the appropriations committees, who tend to like the power to spend money that the current set-up gives them. It would also require wrenching change in the Senate, where considering more spending bills would, on present rules, take a lot of time. But 2011 might be the right time to move forward with such a reform — if, that is, Congress really is filled with new legislators who are not immersed in the old ways of doing business and are committed to the cause of cutting government.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More