Government a la carte doesn’t, and can’t, work

In the eight days since House Republicans shut down the government, they’ve been content to pass smaller, individual spending measures to reopen very specific parts of the government. It’s been a bizarre exercise to watch – GOP lawmakers identify the parts of the shutdown people are most likely to dislike, and they agree to address just those areas in the hopes of minimizing the political impact.

This approach has its media defenders – CBS’ Mark Knoller, for example, seems to think this approach has merit – while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argues this approach is “better” than the federal budget process.

In case anyone’s ever tempted to take this seriously, let’s be clear about just how foolish – and inefficient – this approach to governing really is. The Center for American Progress’ Michael Linden put together the chart featured above and explained that piecemeal spending is “a fundamentally unworkable method for reopening the government.”

79. That’s how many different appropriations bills the House and Senate would have to pass to fund the full nondefense portion of the federal government, given the rate of funding in the bills passed or announced in the House of Representatives so far.

To date, the House has passed six piecemeal nondefense appropriations bills, with another eight on the docket for sometime this week or soon thereafter. Together, these 14 bills allocate approximately $83.1 billion in funding, for an average of just under $6 billion per bill. The total amount of nondefense funding in the original House-passed continuing resolution was $469.4 billion. Therefore, the House bills that either already passed or are currently under consideration make up less than 18 percent of the total. It would take another 65 bills, each with the average funding amount from the first 14 bills, to finish the job.

And given recent Republican measures, this is almost certainly understating matters. In recent days, we’ve seen proposals from House GOP members to focus their spending priorities with great specificity – restoring funding for just the National Institutes of Health, just the National Park Service, or just Head Start centers. By this measure, Congress would have also have to take up specific spending bills for every individual federal bureau, which would necessitate several hundred small spending bills (which are now called “mini-CRs”), which would take months to approve.

Of course, there’s an alternative: House Republicans could approve the Senate spending bill, which features Republican spending levels, and which was endorsed by House GOP leaders a month ago.

Government a la carte doesn't, and can't, work