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The Recent History of Continuing Resolutions

budget-congress-capitol-hundred-dollar-billsSo, you might be wondering, how often do we run the government on continuing resolutions and how often do we manage to go through the full budget process?

Well, via The Note:

It had  been 14 years since the House, the Senate and the president have all agreed on a bill to fund the government for an entire fiscal year. In the past 26 years, Congress and the president have agreed to a year-long budget only three times, in 1989, 1995 and 1997, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

And make that 16 years, as the piece in question was written just over two years ago (and we all should know that we are currently functioning under a CR until early next year).

Via a GAO report we have 1999-2013, showing multiple CRs per fiscal year:

image

As such, when partisans for one of the two parties decries how the other side is unwilling to “pass a budget” (a statement which oversimplifies the situation, btw) it is worth remembering that this is a long-term, bipartisan problem.  It is also indicative, I would argue, of a deep-seated problem with basic governance (if spending is mostly a combination of continuism and ad hocery, it is no wonder we have issues with deficits, the tax code, entitlements, etc.).

For those who are interested, I would recommend the following CRS report:   The Congressional Budget Process:  A Brief Overview.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. I’ve seen several suggestions from both sides of the aisle that we should move to two year budget process, which many states do now. I’m not sure if it would solve any of the causes of this problem or just exacerbate them, though.

    Thoughts?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. @Doug Mataconis: There may be merit, from a management POV, of two-year budgets, but I don’t think that it would fix the underlying political problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Scott O says:

    Another right wing talking point bites the dust.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  4. John D'Geek says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Your not supposed to admit that both sides do it. It makes the crowds restless …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  5. Pinky says:

    It looks like you truncated the table. You omitted the following:

    b In February 2007, Congress enacted a 227-day CR that provided funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. This CR is not included in the figure.
    c In April 2011, Congress enacted a 168-day CR that provided funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. This CR is not included in the figure.
    d The figure is as of March 11, 2013.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. @Pinky: You’re correct–thanks for making the note.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. Pinky says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: That’s a heck of a mistake. It would mean that two, maybe three of the last five lines extend about twice as long as they currently do. It would demonstrate probably the exact opposite of what you argue here: that something significant has changed in recent years.

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  8. @Pinky: To be clear, the graph is from the CRS report. The error I made was not including the footnotes.

    And yes, if included the bars for 2007 and 2011 would have been far longer.

    Ultimately, however, I am not sure how that changes the basic discussion.

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  9. An Interested Party says:

    Your not supposed to admit that both sides do it (when it’s not true). It makes the crowds restless you appear to be full of $hit…

    Happy to be of help…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’ve seen several suggestions from both sides of the aisle that we should move to two year budget process, which many states do now. I’m not sure if it would solve any of the causes of this problem or just exacerbate them, though.
    Thoughts?

    I’ve worked as an financial analyst in support of bond underwriting and bond counsel firms. Many of our public agency clients did adopt 2 year budget plans, and it did have the beneficial effect of forcing those agencies to do more research and planning concerning their finances.

    As to process, it (the second year plan) usually provides a reasonable estimate of where you want to go in the second year, however at the end of one year you end up amending the second year to conform with new information, updated projections and revised estimates. All of that is an in-artful way of saying that to amend the two year budget you’d have to go through Congress as you do now, so to me, it would change nothing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Budget schmudget. I don’t know why people go on about this. Both parties have a habit of ignoring the budget when it suits them. Appropriations bills are where the rubber meets the road.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  12. anjin-san says:

    Another right wing talking point bites the dust.

    Since when has the truth prevented Fox viewers from looking upon right wing talking points as holy writ?

    I’ve been a little more politically engaged on Facebook recently. My right leaning friends will post some nonsense like “Obama forcing Marines to wear girly hats.” I debunk it, and they are still angry about it even after it is proved false.

    It’s anger that drives them, not facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  13. @John D’Geek: @An Interested Party: @anjin-san:

    My point isn’t really so much the standard “both sides do it” as much as it is that there is something wrong when the system only produces a successful (by its own standards) outcome on average of close to once a decade.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Pinky says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: But that’s the thing. There’s a vast difference between a CR for a few days or months and a CR for a year. And the breakpoint seems to be 2007, when the Democrats took over the Senate and the House. I’d love to see more data on this. Also, a consideration of whether the CR’s in question were just for individual departments / programs or for the whole government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    The bottom line is we have a dysfunctional government because we have at least two separate countries. Perhaps ditching our “sacred” constitution and establishing a parliamentary form of government would work. The other option is simply breaking up the country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  16. Tyrell says:

    This is the result when you have two political parties that are non-different: “tweedle dee and tweedle dum”.

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  17. Tony W says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: This is an instance in which I am happy to say “both sides do it”. Budgeting involves lots of unsavory political activity – most importantly making hard choices and going on record with those choices.

    What I struggle with is why we do not hold our CongressCritters to a higher standard than we do the average mid-level manager, who has to make super tough choices all day long. It is as if we understand trade offs must be made at home and in business – but somehow government is exempt?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. John D'Geek says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    The bottom line is we have a dysfunctional government because we have at least two separate countries.

    I would suggest American Nations. It makes a lot of sense; I certainly seeyself in there.

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  19. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    This is the result when you have two political parties that are non-different: “tweedle dee and tweedle dum”.

    Really?
    These two parties are most certainly NOT the same, and I’m not referring to “both sides do it,” I’m talking about ideology and public policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Rob in CT says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I typed up two different responses to Tyrell, but ultimately decided that it would be obvious to everyone that he said something that was 180 degrees from reality.

    Ideological sorting + party discipline = this. Not tweedledee and tweedledum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Pinky says:

    @John D’Geek: I’m not familiar with that one, but I’ve read parts of The Nine Nations of North America (1981), which is probably very similar.

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  22. grumpy realist says:

    The whole budget process makes me think of someone who eats a gallon of ice cream and thinks that following that up with a Diet Coke means she’s virtuously dieting.

    I’d rather go back to the system where if you vote for the program, you automatically vote for the taxes to finance the program. Want fewer taxes? Cut back on services.

    And let’s get away from this horrid habit of “well, MY program is more important than YOUR program.” Want to have a balanced budget at present taxation levels? Cut EVERYTHING across the board by the percentage necessary. Cut Defense, Social Security, Medicare…EVERYTHING.

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  23. al-Ameda says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’d rather go back to the system where if you vote for the program, you automatically vote for the taxes to finance the program. Want fewer taxes? Cut back on services.

    I’d love to go beta on that one for 4 years. Oh my god, the kabuki we’d go through, we’d reach a new level of weasel speeches on the floor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Pinky says:

    @grumpy realist: Aren’t some programs more important than others?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. John D'Geek says:

    @Pinky: I believe that’s one of the predecessors — some differences, IIRC, but nothing important enough to fit into a sound byte.

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  26. John D'Geek says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It was supposed to be a humorous compliment. The fact that this goes so far back does surprise me, though I wouldn’t know how to fix it.

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  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: That’s the argument that everybody uses, and everything gets into a ding-dong fight over Whose Ox Is More To Be Gored Than The Other’s and nothing ever gets done.

    So cut all of it. WHACK WHACK WHACK. This is the political equivalent of ‘because you two can’t play with the toy nicely I’m going to take it away from both of you”, but as long as our politicians act like toddlers we’re going to have to treat them like toddlers.

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  28. Tony W says:

    @grumpy realist: That is what got us the sequester. Nobody thought the R’s would go there.

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  29. grumpy realist says:

    @Tony W: So what? If we have to lose our science and technology base to China to realize that cutting back on R&D is a really, really dumb idea, then that’s what we’re going to have to do. We NEED another Sputnik.

    I’m really, really tired of pounding the warning drum. So the US populace has decided it wants to continue to act like a rebellious teenager and not be prudent, all the while indulging the percentage of its population that refuses to believe in evolution or global warming and thinks that praying to Jesus is a sufficient medical insurance program.

    Stupidity should hurt. Badly.

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