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Republicans Battling Windmills Instead of Budgeting

The question that everyone should be asking is: Why is the House GOP only proposing a short-term continuing resolution?

This should be the moment when either individual appropriations or a full-year CR at the start of the year is not just easy to do but actually gets done.

The House, Senate and White House all agreed to the spending level for fiscal 2012 when the president signed the Budget Control Act on Aug. 2, almost two months before the fiscal year starts.

The fight to get there was so exceptionally hard-fought (to say the least) and the wounds from those battles are still so painful that only a handful of Members, and even less of the voting public, seem eager to do it all again anytime soon.

And polls taken since the BCA was signed definitively show that the high-stakes, hold-out-to-the-absolutely-last-minute politics of the debt ceiling fight were very damaging to those held responsible for it. Congressional Republicans so far seem to be the ones who have taken it on the political chin the most.

Under these circumstances, it’s logical to think that the preferred strategy for the House GOP would be a full-year CR rather than a short-term bill. Not only would that avoid another budget-related knock-down fight while the scars from the last one have not yet healed, but it also wouldn’t preclude any other spending decision from being made on the individual bills if and when they’re considered.

If the tried and true procedure is used, the CR will simply stop applying to the departments and agencies when the separate appropriation is signed. In appropriations-speak, those covered by the individual spending bill will “disengage” from the CR.

But logic doesn’t seem to be the motivator that it should be on the fiscal 2012 continuing resolution.

The House this week is supposed to consider a continuing resolution — presumably endorsed by the GOP leadership — that would keep the government funded until only Nov. 18.

This needs to be said as directly as possible: There is no practical reason for a seven-week continuing resolution in this situation. A short-term CR such as this one will force Congress and the White House to spend additional time debating and passing a second funding bill less than two months from now that is absolutely unnecessary.

This is the same Congress that frequently talks about a two-year budget because of complaints that the process already takes up way too much energy and political capital. Hearings have been held about having fewer steps in the budget process so that time can be devoted to increased oversight and other priorities that now get short shrift.

But given a real opportunity at the seemingly perfect time to expedite the budget process without losing control over anything that affects the government’s bottom line, the House GOP instead is proposing a short-term CR that will add rather than subtract steps. It will devote even more time to the budget when there’s ample evidence of extreme fiscal fatigue.

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