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Broken Budget System Wastes Taxpayer Dollars, Hurts Military

The federal government’s budget process hasn’t worked in more than four decades. I have been a vocal critic of the current system, which largely rubber-stamps federal spending with very little debate or discussion. I recently voted “no” on a continuing resolution, which funds the government for two weeks, through December 22, 2017. This is not a decision I take lightly, and I’d like to take this opportunity to explain what led me to this decision. 


This year, working within this broken system, we gave negotiators extra time to work out a compromise on spending. Rather than getting to work on a compromise package during that period, a day before the extended deadline of Dec. 8, Congress was forced to vote on another extension because no progress had been made in the nearly three months when the original deadline was extended. This new deadline comes just before the holidays, hoping it will add pressure for Members to accept conditions they may otherwise disagree with. This is not a good policy.


A number of us have worked on proposals to modify our current budget ‘process’ – a term I use loosely – so that we can actually do the work we were sent here to do: make informed policy decisions and make certain the federal government is being a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. Yet Congress continues this pattern of passing short-term, stopgap spending bills.


I cannot, in good conscience, lend my support to this continuing resolution that merely continues federal spending and whose lone policy change could actually end up hurting South Dakota families. If we are ever to get our spending under control, eliminate wasteful programs and provide much-needed stability for our military, we must reject the status quo.


As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am concerned about the impact continuing resolutions have on military readiness. Military leaders have repeatedly warned our committee of the dangers that these short-term, stopgap spending bills have on their ability to adequately train, equip and maintain the force.


In particular, under continuing resolutions, the Defense Department is restricted from starting new programs, which is deeply concerning in today’s rapidly-changing threat environment. One example is the mounting cyber threat to our armed forces and our civilian critical infrastructure. If we are to adequately recover readiness levels that were lost over the last eight years, as well as modernize our armed forces in this increasingly dangerous and complex world, we must give them the funding stability and certainty that continuing resolutions fail to provide.


The federal government has an obligation to the American people to be good stewards of their hard-earned dollars. We simply cannot continue to allow spending to run on auto-pilot, without a genuine opportunity for Congress to manage and debate the merits of individual programs. This practice will not change until more of us send the message that we must either repair this broken system or we get our work done on time. The American people expect no less.




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