In January 1988, in Ronald Reagan’s final State of the Union address, he noisily dropped on a table next to the lectern in the House chamber three recent continuing resolutions, each more than a thousand pages long. Each was evidence of Congress’s disregard of the 1974 Budget Act. Reagan fumed:
“Budget deadlines delayed or missed completely, monstrous continuing resolutions that pack hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of spending into one bill, and a federal government on the brink of default. . . . In seven years, of 91 appropriations bills scheduled to arrive on my desk by a certain date, only 10 made it on time. Last year, of the 13 appropriations bills due by October first, none of them made it. Instead, we had four continuing resolutions lasting 41 days, then 36 days, and two days, and three days, respectively. And then, along came these [three] behemoths.”
Reagan might have been less cross if there had not then been Democratic majorities in the House (258-177) and Senate (55-45). Today, however, Republicans have both political branches in their hands. How are they doing with the government’s basic business — budgeting and appropriating? James Arkin, a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics, recently wrote a four-part dissection of Congress’s ongoing dereliction.