Dems Can Remind Voters that Good Government IS Possible
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 06:10:07 PM EST
Earlier this week we found out that the White House was unhappy that the incoming Democratic Appropriations Chairmen in the House and the Senate, David Obey and Robert Byrd, did not fall into the trap laid by the outgoing Republican Congress; instead of wasting many of the early hours of the 110th Congress trying to pass appropriations bills that the 109th Congress intentionally failed to pass, the Democrats decided to carry forward spending at levels authorized the previous year. Certainly there are downsides to this, most notably that it will cause a number of programs and agencies to be underfunded (which can certainly be changed later on during the session). Yet this quandry was predominantly a result of Republican games rather than Democratic decisions.
Tucked into a front page article in today's Washington Post by Jonathan Weisman and Lori Montgomery that seems to spread blame more evenly among parties than I believe is warranted, is an extremely important fact: Not once during the 12 years of Republican rule over Congress were GOP appropriators able to complete every one of the required funding bills on schedule. Not once.
It has been nearly 20 years since congressional failures left the government to be financed under spending guidelines and formulas rather than line-by-line policymaking. But to federal budget experts, this year's breakdown was hardly surprising. Not since 1994, the last year of Democratic control, has Congress actually passed all of its spending bills. Republican leaders almost ensured logjams by populating the House Budget Committee with conservative spending hawks whose views on the size of government were fundamentally different from many of the appropriators who would have to flesh out the committee's budget blueprints. Ultimately, compromises in those conservative principles have been laid at the feet of the Clinton White House, the demands of the post-Sept. 11 government, or a Democratic-controlled Senate, said Scott Lilly, a former Democratic staff director of the House Appropriations Committee.
Given the unsurprisingly terrible track record of the GOP Congress during the last two decades, Democrats will have ample opportunity to show voters that they are more able to make government function efficiently than Republicans. It is certainly true that good governance is not a sexy issue, nor is it the most salent issue for voters. But if the Democrats can get government working functioning properly again in short order -- a tough task, no doubt, but one I'm confident they can succeed at -- then they will have at least one accomplishment to run on that the Republicans never had.