(Nov. 12)  House Speaker Mike Johnson is on the right track in his Nov. 11 proposal to temporarily continue government funding in two pieces, with a tighter deadline for full-term funding for the easier parts of the budget.

Johnson’s two-part continuing resolution would extend current levels of funding for Agriculture, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy and Water until January 19, with the agencies covered by the eight other “Appropriations” categories extended until Feb. 2. This goes along with Johnson’s pledge next year to pass each of the 12 annual Appropriations bills one at a time and to finish each of them before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, so as to avoid a repeat of the massive year-end budgetary pile-up that has happened almost annually for decades.

That second promise is easier said than done, but it is achievable. Just to make it such a prominent public pledge is a good start, because imposing discipline usually involves laying down a marker, a firm goal, to begin with.

The first proposal – the two-tiered approach to keeping the government from shutting down on Nov. 17, when the prior spending extension expires – uses some of the same logic as the longer-term pledge. Namely, it makes more sense to break projects down into bite-sized chunks than to insist on all-or-nothing propositions. If Congress can find agreement on a third of the government’s annual “discretionary” spending, well, why not at least get that third done and then work on the other two-thirds separately?

Johnson does not, however, want to include so-called “supplemental” spending for Ukraine or the Mexican border in either of these packages of ordinary appropriations. While this obviously is cause for concern for those of us who want the U.S. to provide strong support military support to the victims of Russia’s evil aggression, the logic is the same: By handling each item separately, the Speaker makes it harder for Members to vote against everything just because they oppose something, some smaller portion, in the whole package. It’s easier to build a coalition for smaller chunks individually than for a massive contraption with too many moving parts….. [The full column is here.]


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