WASHINGTON (AP) - In President Ronald Reagan’s final State of the Union address, he slammed Congress for sending him a 14-pound, 1,053-page single spending bill. He warned lawmakers not to try his patience by doing it again.
“And if you do, I will not sign it,” Reagan said.
Guess what? It worked.
In 1988, Congress passed 13 separate spending bills by the rarely met Oct. 1 deadline.
That’s evidence of just how badly the annual appropriations process - the little-watched but extremely important means by which Congress sets the government’s annual spending priorities - has gone off the rails.
The omnibus bill - really 12 bills wrapped into one - was “rushed to passage without amendment or meaningful review,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. “The American people have no real ability to know what’s in it or hold us, their elected representatives, accountable.”
It’s hardly a sure thing.
But last year the bills became entangled in a broader fight over spending. Not a single appropriations bill passed the Senate before the omnibus measure.
Republicans filibustered the only plan that Democrats tried to bring up, because it contained spending levels well above the cuts imposed by the 2011 budget deal.
The House was trapped by the opposite problem: spending levels that were too low for most domestic programs to win support from Democrats. There, the appropriations process collapsed after just four bills were passed.
That fulfilled predictions by the House Appropriations Committee chairman, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., that the GOP’s tea party-backed budget had set up appropriators for failure.