Dems Can Remind Voters that Good Government IS Possible

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.

Tags: 110th congress, appropriations (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

Appropriations: two fascinating years ahead

The decision to fund FY07 on continuing resolutions (except for defense and homeland security, whose apps bills were passed) is real hardball - and a decision whose process I'd be fascinated to find out more about.

There's now the opportunity (with ever more daunting deficits looming and even the Big Spender sounding worried about them) to reform the apps process. Not least the suppurating wen that is the earmark factory.

The null hypothesis is that the cracks are papered over, and the pent up demand for pork of all breeds will clog up the FY08 apps bills with billions worth of bridges to nowhere.

Here's hoping the Dems do better than that.

by skeptic06 2006-12-18 05:34AM | 0 recs
Charisma + "Goo-Goo" = Success

When Dukakis was running against Bush senior, they called him a "goo-goo." Someone who is always talking about "good government," i.e. competency.

"Technocrat" means the same thing, basically.

MyDD this morning leads with Obama and his cult of personality (plus some political philosophy), then the next post is about vastly improving government machinery.

We desperately need Good Government, but we can't run and govern strictly as technocrats. Can't just give the people and the media the steak, got to give them sizzle.

In other words, Good Government as presided over by charisma-free Hillary Clinton is vastly different from Good Government as presided over by Barack Obama, or even John Edwards.

Republican DNA actually contains the Mussolini/trains-on-time streak that could and would lead to functioning federal government. But they don't like that idea... they would rather "starve the beast" if not worse. Only a liberal can run the U.S. federal government properly.

But we can't do it in dull fashion, too many forces of nature won't have it. Just a friendly reminder of that odd truth.

by ShagBark 2006-12-18 06:14AM | 0 recs

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