The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

A Clean CR is a Dirty Rotten Shame

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On the October 2nd edition of Fox News Channel’s Special Report, columnist Charles Krauthammer decried the Democrats’ disingenuous insistence on a “clean CR,” implying that such an approach is actually a ratification of failure.  On the one hand, it would underscore the fact that both chambers of Congress had failed in one of their most basic responsibilities:  to fund, one bill at a time and by the end of each fiscal year, the various functions of government.  On the other, and thus betraying the Democrats’ true motivations, it would signal that the Republicans had failed to secure a single concession during this political death-match.

For anyone not conversant in Congress-speak, the much-vaunted “clean CR” refers to a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government at the previous year’s levels, without any other changes to existing law—thus, unsullied by controversial subjects.  But why is the Republican approach – a re-opening of the government, one function at a time – considered controversial?  As Dr. Krauthammer correctly pointed out, this used to be the regular order.

Here’s where a revival of Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill” would be timely.  As “Bill” laments, it is a “long, long wait while I’m sittin’ in committee…”  But, in the current instance, the committee process is not the issue.  The Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives – where the Constitution mandates that spending bills originate, for anyone who cares to educate Senate Majority Leader Harry “What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded?” Reid – has approved ten of the twelve funding bills.  And the Senate’s funding panels have passed eleven of their twelve.  The problem is that the full House has completed only four of these ahead of the funding year’s end, and, worse, the full Senate has finished none.

Sadly, the CR – a term once confined within the Capital Beltway – has become part of the mainstream lexicon.  Rather than being the exception, encompassing only those few outliers that (abashedly) were not completed on time, the continuing resolution has evolved into the default position for annual appropriations.  Sure, one of its few positive qualities is that, by continuing at the previous year’s funding level and thus escaping the typical inflationary impulse to increase spending in the ensuing year, it helps to mitigate our profligate tendencies.  But this is a lazy way to lead.

So here we are.  In this game of musical chairs, the tunes stopped at midnight on September 30, and Congress cannot find a place to sit.  Because the left-leaning media (meaning most of it) will lay much (perhaps all) of the blame on the right, Republicans might be tempted to cry “Uncle!” and retreat to lick their wounds on the heels of such an embarrassing defeat.  And, in such a scenario, they would have nothing to show for this crusade.  That is one reason why capitulation (at this point) to the “clean CR” would be a fate worse than political death:  not only would that demise be all but certain, it would be an agonizing twelve months in coming, with the 2014 mid-term elections one year away.  For those who fear a revitalized President Obama unencumbered by any congressional checks to his power, that would be a dirty, rotten shame.

Alternatively, if the House continues to lob non-controversial elements of government funding into the Senate’s court, it will inevitably erode Reid’s position.  At the same time, a coherent message about defending the basic issues of fairness (be it in the administration of compulsory health care or in the debate over our nation’s laws) should be a winning proposition.  And, if Republican unity holds, voters might actually take notice and shift their focus (and frustrations) to the intransigence of the upper chamber.  While the arcane nuances of legislative legerdemain might (and hopefully do) escape the average American, that same citizen can easily understand – and disdain – a craven refusal to negotiate.  Here, the facts are on the House majority’s side.

Case in point:  the Senate – which managed earlier today to act on such important priorities as designating “National Chess Week” – really could take a moment to fund clinical trials for cancer patients.  The House already did.

So, instead of carping about how they found themselves in this situation, congressional Republicans should heed country singer Rodney Atkins’ song, as inspired by Winston Churchill:  “If you’re going through hell, keep on going, don’t slow down, if you’re scared, don’t show it…  Keep on moving, face that fire, walk right through it, you might get out, before the devil even knows you’re there.”

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