“The budget is up to the President and he didn’t do one,” is the answer I got on Friday when I called my House representative’s office to ask why the government was shut down.
Now I don’t expect much from this House member who certainly doesn’t represent me and I can’t say for sure what substance he has inside his head where his brain is supposed to be. He won the election last November with 67% of the vote consistent with prior elections. I call his office because I’ll have no one to blame but myself if my voice isn’t heard.
I wanted to know how the US ended up in its present predicament without a budget or even a penny appropriated for spending so that the government had to shut down, all because our representatives in Congress didn’t do their J.O.B. even though they had all year to do it.
And the glib, self-satisfied, snotty Luke Russert sound-alike on the phone didn’t hesitate for a nanosecond after my question. “The budget is up to the President and he didn’t do one.”
I didn’t hesitate either and I politely offered him a civics lesson. “Do you have a copy of the Constitution there or a laptop in front of you? The Constitution authorizes Congress, only, to appropriate money for spending. Not the President.”
“Luke’s” juvenile mocking tone showed he wasn’t impressed. “Yeah, well, Congress gets the budget from the President and he never sent it this year.”
I answered the only way I could. “The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget was posted on the Congressional Budget Office website earlier this year and the CBO analyzed it and published its findings online. “
“Luke” tried to interrupt me but I wasn’t done speaking. “You know, this isn’t the first year ever for Congress to work on fiscal matters. The budget process is outlined in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 with a calendar of deadlines to keep the process on track for completion before the fiscal new year on October 1. You can find that on the Budget Committee page for the House and Senate. The required deadlines were very important to the Republicans in January and they introduced the No Budget No Pay Act because they wanted strict adherence on the deadlines. It was passed in the House and Senate and the President signed it. The House and Senate passed their budgets by the deadline and what happened after that? Why weren’t the rest of the deadlines on the calendar completed?”
“Luke” didn’t sound so cocky anymore. “But the President has to negotiate.”
I told him to look at the calendar of deadlines. “The House and Senate have to go to conference to reconcile the differences between their two budget resolutions. When Reid tried to get the process started in the Senate, the usual suspects from the GOP rose one by one with objections. This was a charade that went on for weeks. They made it clear that they wanted the Democrats consent agreement in advance on all of the elements in the Ryan budget passed by the House or there would be no conference. They were the ones who didn’t want to negotiate. Read the verbatim transcripts in the Congressional Record from April 24 to May 15. The Republicans never even appointed conferees to the conference because they didn’t want to negotiate. Instead they let the clock run out on the fiscal year knowing that they made no appropriations for the new fiscal year. They didn’t even reauthorize 2013 spending to avoid disruptions on October 1. They thought it would be easier to extract concessions from the Democrats once they were faced with the urgency of a government shutdown. The President is wise not to negotiate with Republican extortionists. “
“Luke” had been quiet until he heard this last word which he didn’t like. “What!? Extortionists!? Explain that.”
I didn’t need his invitation. But I wasn’t ever going to get anywhere with him either. He never apologized for the little fibs he told and he didn’t argue or try to defend them. He just substituted a different fib from what must be an endless supply each time the previous one was refuted. We played cat and mouse like this for a while, especially on the debt ceiling. This rep voted for appropriations that contributed to the debt a decade ago and he won’t take responsibility for it. My rhetoric was getting overheated as I hinted about the illegality of approving the issuance and sale of Treasury bonds that were guaranteed against loss only to create the conditions now for those same bonds to default.
Finally “Luke” became exasperated and he blurted out, "So what do you want him [the rep] to do."
"Resign." It was the only appropriate word.
He snapped back at me. "Well he's not going to do that."
To which I responded, "Yet. He's not going to do that, yet. And if he waits long enough he may end up getting expelled."
Then there was silence. We were out of things to say so I said goodbye.
How much clearer could it be that the staff in this rep's office makes no effort to pretend that they're in DC to represent their constituents? At one point I asked the staffer if he could explain how the shutdown or a debt default would benefit the large population of retired seniors in the district. There was silence. He couldn't come up with a single word.
4:45 PM PT: Somebody must have liked this. Thank you.
So who is the numskull representative? It could probably be any one of a number of House members. This one's name is Matt Salmon.