Kevin McCarthy had to make a lot of concessions to become Speaker of the House. Plenty of those concessions, along with the prolonged process needed to secure his speakership, have concerning implications for the next two years in Congress.
One that isn’t concerning, however, is McCarthy’s agreement to pass individual spending bills rather than one massive, last minute package. The all-too-common practice of budgeting by procrastination needs to go. This is something on which everyone — Republicans and Democrats, defense hawks and budget hawks, progressives and libertarians — should be able find agreement on.
Constantly running into government shutdown deadlines, and shuffling from short-term funding fixes and 12th-hour omnibus deals, is not a responsible way to govern.
There is something in this process, which has for years become the de facto way of funding the federal government, for everyone to hate. It can essentially run programs on autopilot, failing to make smart and necessary long-term investments. It shrouds the process in unpredictability, with the looming threat of a government shutdown. It often results in massive, last-minute agreements among party leaders and committee chairs, leaving other lawmakers scrambling to review hundreds of pages of text in very little time.
To again borrow from one senator’s remarks in early 2022: the process stinks.
Given this history, it was no small thing for Sens. Susan Collins and Patty Murray to release a joint statement this week committing to a more sensible, bipartisan funding process based around passing individual appropriations bills. Murray will be the new Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Collins will be the committee’s top Republican.
“There are so many pressing challenges our nation faces right now — both here at home and abroad — and it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to do the hard work to listen to one another, find common ground, and then reach sensible solutions that help the American people,” Collins and Murray said in their Jan. 10 statement. “This starts with funding the government in a responsible and bipartisan manner — that means marking up our appropriations bills and bringing them to the floor in a timely way.”
Like the House Republicans, these Senate appropriators have emphasized returning to a more regular order for funding bills. That agreement aside, however, their statement stands in stark contrast to the divisiveness and uncertainty already taking hold in the House.
The House Republican appetite to pick funding fights over political grievances has caused legitimate worries of a government shutdown in the future. The government funding process needs to be fixed, yes, but the government still needs to be funded. With a Democratic Senate, Republican House and a Democrat in the White House, that will inevitably require collaboration and compromise.
“As the incoming Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, we take our responsibility to govern seriously and look forward to working in a bipartisan way here in the Senate to find common ground and move our country forward,” Collins and Murray added.
Collins and Murray’s commitment — not just to a better government funding process, but to a productive and collaborative one — must win out over the uncertainty and partisanship on display in the House of Representatives.