The GOP’s latest poison pill

October 13, 2013

The National Review's Robert Costa reports that House Republicans are preparing a six-week debt-ceiling extension that includes the Vitter amendment (see here for more on that bit of health-care trolling), strengthened income verification under Obamacare, and Rep. James Lankford's 'Government Shutdown Prevention Act.'


Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), right, listens to Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.). (Sue Ogrocki/AP )

Lankford's bill is interesting. Here's the description from his congressional office:

If Congress fails to approve a budget by the end of each fiscal year, the Government Shutdown Prevention Act would ensure that all operations remain running normally without any interruption of services by automatically triggering a continuing resolution (CR) or short-term, stop-gap spending device.

The bill creates an automatic CR for any regular appropriations bill not completed before the end of the fiscal year. After the first 120 days, auto-CR funding would be reduced by one percentage point and would continue to be reduced by that margin every 90 days.

 

By progressively decreasing the amounts provided under the automatic continuing resolution, the bill provides continued incentives for Congress and the President to reach agreement on regular appropriations bills.

Catch the problem?

The Lankford bill creates a world in which the failure to fund the government leads to automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. That's not a world in which there are "continued incentives for Congress and the President to reach agreement on regular appropriations bills." It's a world in which Republicans who want spending cuts have a continued incentive to refuse to reach agreement on bills to fund the government.

If Lankford wanted to incentivize both sides to come to a deal he'd propose a bill that paired automatic spending cuts with automatic tax increases. That way, both Democrats and Republicans would have reason to come to an agreement. As it is, his bill is heads-Republicans-win, tails-Democrats-lose. It'll die a quick death in the Senate.

Further reading:

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities took an in-depth look at a softer version of the Lankford bill back in 2004. Their conclusion was that the proposal would further break the budgeting process by making actual appropriations bills redundant.

"Congress would no longer need to pass appropriations bills, and the President would no longer need to sign them,: wrote Richard Kogan. "For any given appropriations bill, the, House, the Senate, or the President might prefer the level under the automatic CR to the level that otherwise would result from the give-and-take of the appropriations process."

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Sarah Kliff · October 13, 2013