by Jonathan Singer, Tue Dec 12, 2006 at 11:56:37 AM EST
After their monumental loss in the November midterms, Republicans decided to disrupt the incoming Democratic majorities by passing off the responsibility for enacting fiscal year 2007 spending bills to the next Congress rather than completing them during the lame duck session, as would be customary when they were not yet finished at that point. In effect, by dumping this responsibility on the Democrats -- a responsibility that would take countless man-hours in Congress -- Republicans could make it near impossible for the Democrats to move forward with their agenda at the rapid pace they prefer.
In response, Democratic appropriations chairmen from both chambers -- Robert Byrd in the Senate, David Obey in the House -- came together with a plan to make sure that the government was funded through September 30 (the end of the current fiscal year) so that they could prepare fresh appropriations bills for the next fiscal year and still have time to pass key portions of the party platform, most notably those contained in the "100 Hours" agenda. To make the plan even more politically beneficial for the Democrats, Byrd and Obey declared that the continuing resolution would be devoid of earmarks, a move that will no doubt play well to the ears of good government types and budget hawks alike.
Unsurprisingly, the President is unhappy the Democrats didn't fall for the Republican trip, as CQ's midday update email reports.
The White House has reacted warily to the Democrats' proposal for finishing off the fiscal 2007 spending bills with a long-term continuing resolution that would wipe out earmarks.
The GOP-led Congress cleared only two of the 11 annual spending bills, frustrating Democrats who wanted to begin the new session with a clean slate. The incoming Appropriations Committee chairmen, Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., announced Monday that they would move a continuing resolution (CR) for the balance of the 2007 fiscal year, one that would contain no earmarks.
Unlike the three stopgap spending measures that Congress has already cleared, the next one will not set funding at the lowest of the House-passed, Senate-passed or fiscal 2006 spending levels. Instead it will make "limited adjustments" allowing appropriators to provide more money for priorities such as health, education and veterans' medical care.
Rob Portman, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, called the long-term CR "disappointing" in a statement issued late yesterday. But he said the White House "will certainly work with the agencies and the Congress to ensure there are no major disruptions to essential government services."
The only thing disappointing about this move for the White House is that the Democrats weren't stupid enough to fall for their tricks. This was clearly a shrewd move by the Democrats, who are already using their experience and understanding of parliamentary tactics to run circles around the Republicans -- even before they have taken over the reins of Congress.