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CHAFFETZ: ‘If you can’t budget, you can’t govern’

Once again, Democrats’ taunts boomerang

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The time has come to make tough decisions. I know it. My constituents know it. Many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle know it. Unfortunately, the House leadership has not gotten the message. Its failure to propose a real budget resolution for 2011 or to allow an open amendment process underscores some of my deepest concerns. There seems to be a complete disconnect between those who make the decisions and those who pay for them. While Americans across the political spectrum call on the government to cut back, Congress has continued to tax, spend and borrow. While Americans ask us to work together, Congress has continued to shut down debate.

This month, Congress should be voting on a budget resolution that creates the framework for next year's spending decisions. Since 1974, the House has never failed to offer such a resolution. Yet we have now learned that leadership has no intention of crafting one.

Managing the federal budget is the most fundamental function of the House of Representatives. I know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle agree in principle. Four years ago, when Republicans controlled the House, Rep. John M. Spratt Jr., South Carolina Democrat, said, "If you can't budget, you can't govern." Similarly, then-Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, proclaimed that enacting a budget was "the most basic responsibility of governing." Yet today, as both Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Spratt control the budget process, they refuse to offer a budget resolution.

If we're going to confront the problems our overspending has created, we have to make tough decisions. That means we have to be willing to talk candidly, even in an election year, about the amount of red ink we've created on the federal balance sheets.

I didn't create this mess in Washington, but I was sent here to help clean it up. Unfortunately, overwhelming majorities on one side of the aisle have led to a stronghold on the process. Changes in the House rules for the 111th Congress have totally eliminated the ability of the minority party to offer an amendment on the floor.

If the House leadership refuses to listen to the American people - or even to the deficit hawks within their own party - what recourse do we have? In the past, bills could be amended and improved. But today, only the Rules Committee decides which amendments will be heard.

As a freshman, I have never yet seen an open rule that would allow anyone to amend a bill. Never in history has the legislative process been so tightly controlled. For the duration of the 111th Congress, there has never been an open rule in the House. The Democratic leadership should be embarrassed. Congress should be the world's greatest deliberative body. There is no excuse for shortchanging the American people by shutting down debate.

We must do our fundamental job. The parameters for next year's spending decisions should be open and transparent. We must talk about how to address the mess our irresponsible spending has created. The American people have demanded it. The Congress must deliver it. If Congress is unwilling to do its job, then the American people must hold them accountable.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz is a Republican from Utah.

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