We Get The Government We Elect, Right?

We Get The Government We Elect, Right?

Congress Returns with a Pile of Unfunded Bills

As Congress returns from its annual August recess, once again a mound of critical work remains undone—but this year at least appears to be moving in the right direction. Funding bills have moved through both the Senate and House as leadership teams suggested would be their goal when Congress convened in January. Yet, the two chambers remain on a collision course to conference the most critical bills—the National Defense Authorization Act and the Appropriations bills that fund the government.

Add the various policy issues to the mix; Financial and arms support for Ukraine, tech, supply of critical materials, and taxes. The stew of legislating our government is always a recipe of curious ingredients. This year is no different.

The Continuing Resolution

Over the past nearly fifteen years, across three presidential administrations, and changes of leadership in the House, the Senate, and the President have struggled to get the business of legislating done all too often. We once again face an extended Continuing Resolution. In fact, the House and Senate leadership have already agreed to a CR, though its exact contours are not yet public.

This agreement is actually a positive. It represents a guardrail of sorts that Congress does not intend to threaten a government shutdown as part of its negotiating strategy. At least for now.

This means the industry will not be surprised. Most are so accustomed to this condition that if funding were to pass on schedule, that would be an anomaly. While this is not the long-term budget predictability industry craves, it’s something.

Bipartisan Budget Acts

Recall in 2011 the Budget Control Act (BCA) outlined difficult consequences that would come about if Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on a balanced budget. “Sequester” would impose harsh cuts across the government if no budget deal was agreed. Surely, they’d figure this out and avoid those cuts. But they didn’t, and sequester was invoked. Some workarounds each year prevented the full impact of the sequester, but the pain was felt and supply chains contracted by over 20%.

There have been several “Bipartisan Budget Acts” since 2016; one in 2018 and another in 2019. One vote from the other party makes legislation “bipartisan.” Even the more recent Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, known colloquially as the FRA required and achieved bipartisan support. Each agreement was created in the late hours and, as is often the case, understandings not written in the black and white of the legislation seeped out afterward.

The Importance of Compromise

None of the pieces of legislation listed above were popular. None were perfect. Nobody won. Each was the best piece of legislation that could be voted out during its time in the conditions of the day. And that’s the key to focus on. Legislation is, by definition, a compromise. No side should feel like they won or lost; they each had to give in order to reach a compromise.

The legislative process is working as designed. It is not pretty. It is not fun (for most of us) to watch. It is purposely complicated. It often misses its own deadlines. It remains imperfect. One only needs to look at alternative forms of government around the world to see that there is good reason so many still choose America as the place in which to get the most fair and equal opportunity.

We are already beginning the 2024 election process. Candidates are being field-tested at the local levels. Presidential candidates are jockeying for recognition and funding, the essential lifeblood of any campaign. It’s a good time to be reviewing their messages and their qualifications for office.

The Tuberville Hold

Today, we are experiencing a dramatic condition where one Senator is single-handedly ham-stringing the traditional and required upward flow of talent through the most senior ranks of the military. A single Senatorial hold on confirmations of senior officers is inhibiting thousands of timely promotions and changes of duty stations for families. Worse, three service chiefs (Army, Navy, and Marine Corps), all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are vacant as the incumbents reached the statutory end of their terms.

Senator Tuberville is using this tool of influence in response to DoD’s policy allowing for government funds to be used in support of a service member’s travel in support of abortion services. With a rapidly changing abortion landscape at the state level, members of the military can now regularly find themselves having to travel to another state to receive such medical support. It is Senator Tuberville’s right as a Senator to exercise his judgment and flex power in this fashion. However, the point has been made and it has gone too far.

President Biden, Secretary of Defense Austin, and countless retired flag and general officers have spoken out publicly about this dangerous abuse of a tool of Senatorial power and its negative impact on readiness and morale, each of which is very difficult (and often expensive) to restore once lost.

I do believe in the axiom that we get the government we elect. Who’s paying attention? There are compromises to be had. Let’s help our elected officials figure them out.

For a copy of my book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring® Circus of Federal Sales, and more information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.

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