Why Does Congress Need a Whole Seven Days to Solve Its Money Problems?

The ever-shrinking cycle of government funding measures appears to be about to hit a recent low. A report now indicates that House Republicans want a one-week extension. We say: Why so long?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The ever-shrinking cycle of government funding measures appears to be about to hit a recent low. A National Review report on Wednesday afternoon indicates that House Republicans want a one-week extension of the existing funding bill. We say: Why so long?

Instead of passing annual budgets, as it is supposed to, Congress has of late been relying on "continuing resolutions," short-term extensions of the existing federal budget. The government came into 2013 powered by a temporary funding resolution passed last September. In March, it passed another continuation of current spending levels lasting to the end of the fiscal year, September 30. Over the course of the recent tumultuous debate over how to fund the government from that point on, various proposals cropped up. Several weeks ago, vague discussions centered on a one-year extension of the current budget. When the House passed its resolution last week — the one that famously excluded funding for Obamacare — it stipulated that funding would only continue through December 15. (That's what this whold Ted Cruz fight has been over: funding the government not even until Christmas.)

On Tuesday, the Senate Democrats did one better. The Hill reports on an idea from Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland:

Mikulski reflected the view of Senate Democrats that was announced within the last hour — that a short-term spending bill should only run through mid-November, not mid-December. Mikulski said the shorter date would create an incentive for Congress to start work immediately on a larger spending deal for 2014.

And now, the House may be continuing the progression.

So Senate Democrats think three months offers too much leeway to resolve negotiations. Senate Republicans now think two months does. According to National Review's Robert Costa, several Republican senators want to pass a "clean" continuing resolution to buy time for House Republicans to come up with a deal.

Both wrong. Any bill that allows members of Congress to even think before voting is far too luxurious. Every continuing resolution should be passed only to fund the government long enough for Congress to take a vote on the next continuing resolution. This is the sort of real-time economics that Dell Computers pioneered in the 1990s — making financial decisions based on the moment, pumping money where needed in an instant. And Dell Computers is still dominating the markets, we assume.

Mikulski, in her statement, suggested that a tighter timeline would put pressure on Congress to come up with the fabled "grand bargain," a deal that would reverse the sequestration, cut spending on social safety net programs, and raise taxes. Such a bargain has been negotiated and rejected many times in the past; the idea that feeling more pressure on reaching such a deal might make it happen seems to ignore the reality on the ground. For 21 of the past 24 hours, a deeply partisan senator held up any business because he wanted to prove a political point in service to a future presidential run. Why would we think that with seven or even 60 times as long, other partisans on Capitol Hill will solve all of the government's budgetary problems?

Photo: Mikulski speaking in August. (AP)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.