Appropriators Chafe at Budget Stalemate

Rogers is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rogers is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted November 18, 2013 at 4:16pm

Appropriators are growing ever more frustrated by the apparent stalemate in the bipartisan budget talks.

Seventeen days ago, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers — along with his Senate counterpart, Barbara A. Mikluski, D-Md. — asked the budget conference committee to swiftly agree upon topline numbers at which to write fiscal 2014 and 2015 spending bills. On Monday, with no agreement in sight and the clock ticking down to the Dec. 13 deadline to reach a budget deal, the Kentucky Republican tried again.

This time, Rogers submitted a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the bipartisan, bicameral panel that is co-signed by the full roster of GOP “cardinals” who oversee the 12 subcommittees with jurisdiction over the annual appropriations measures.

As in the previous letter Rogers penned with Mikluski, he and his colleagues are calling on the budget conferees to decide on spending caps before Thanksgiving or by Dec. 2 “at the latest.” They say this would give appropriators additional time to prepare an omnibus spending bill before the current continuing resolution expires on Jan. 15.

The most recent correspondence goes further, however, in detailing the dire repercussions of inaction by the conference committee.

It also signals Republican appropriators’ deep frustration with the current status quo and the extent to which they feel hampered by austere budget cuts and partisan gridlock.

“The American people deserve a detailed budget blueprint that makes rational and intelligent choices on funding by their elected representatives, not by a meat ax,” their Monday letter reads. “We urge you to come together and decide on a common discretionary topline for both FY 2014 and FY 2015 as quickly as possible to empower our Committee, and the Congress as a whole, to make the responsible spending decisions we have been elected to make.”

The appropriators make a litany of points to the budget conference chairmen — Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash — and the ranking members — Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. — to underscore their arguments for speedy consensus on topline numbers.

“If a timely agreement is not reached, the likely alternatives could have extremely damaging repercussions,” they warn. “First, the failure to reach a budget deal to allow Appropriations to assemble funding for FY 2014 would reopen the specter of another government shutdown. Second, it will reopen the probability of governance by continuing resolution, based on prior year outdated spending needs and priorities dismissing in one fell swoop all the work done by Congress to enact appropriations bills for FY 2014 that reflect the will of Congress and the people we represent.”

And that’s not all, they say.

“The current sequester and the upcoming ‘Second Sequester’ in January would result in more indiscriminate across the board reductions that could have negative consequences on critically important federal programs, especially our national defense,” the letter continues. “In addition, failure to agree on a common spending cap for FY 2015 will guarantee another year of confusion.”