News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

February 1, 2014

FLASHPOINT: Hold all the congrats for this U.S. Congress

Now that Congress has its immense, $1.1 trillion bipartisan funding bill in hand, Capitol Hill is breathing easier. They ended the specter of a government shutdown for the moment and funded the federal budget for most of the year. The media has been commending Congress for finally doing its job.

This praise works only in the context of recent history, however. The bill that congressional leaders produced is hardly a triumph. Instead, it’s another example of Congress’ stubborn determination to deal itself out of the budgeting process. Let me explain.

In recent years, Congress has funded the federal government in one of two ways. Either it’s passed a “continuing resolution,” which is a stopgap measure to keep the government functioning with the same funding it had previously, or it’s passed huge omnibus bills like the one it just enacted. This most recent bill runs more than 1,500 pages.

Before this current budgeting era, however, Congress used procedures that put the ideals of representative democracy into practice. It divided its responsibilities into policy development, which was in the hands of its various “authorizing” committees; and establishing funding levels, which was done by the appropriations committees in the House and Senate. Once the president submitted his proposed budget, the appropriations committees and their subcommittees would meet, hammer out the issues, and fund the government according to the policies set by the authorizing committees. They would hold hearings, debate furiously, accept and reject scores — if not hundreds — of amendments, and ultimately produce a series of appropriations bills generally divided along federal department lines. These would go to the floor of each chamber, where they’d be debated again, and finally to a conference committee, where each side of Capitol Hill would have a final chance to weigh in.

The process didn’t work perfectly. It produced hiccups and grandstanding and required a lot of negotiation and compromise. But it also spread the work of Congress among expert members, employed the capabilities of dedicated and knowledgeable legislators who knew the various departments and agencies of the federal government intimately, and provided for deliberation, open debate, accountability and a reasonably democratic outcome. Rank-and-file members understood, grappled with and took responsibility for what they produced and voted on.

No more. Continuing resolutions and omnibus bills lift responsibility from most members’ hands. They produce decisions, but not in an open, democratic process. They’re basically developed in secret by a handful of leaders and their allies and staff; allow very few, if any, amendments; sharply limit debate time; severely restrict members’ ability to study thousands of provisions; and require an up or down vote.

Most troubling, they’re larded with policy decisions that in the old days would have been debated by the authorizing committees. This most recent measure boosts funding for Head Start, prevents the president from transferring control of military drones from the CIA to the Defense Department, and bars postal officials from ending Saturday delivery — all policy decisions that should have had a robust debate, but won’t.

Of course, plenty of people in Washington like this. Congressional leaders have more power than if they had to defer to the judgment of the authorizing and appropriations committees. The White House likes it because it involves fewer people, making life simpler. Even some rank-and-file members like it, because it allows them to avoid making hard choices about individual programs.

Which is a problem. With omnibus bills, the truly difficult but crucial work that Congress needs to be doing doesn’t get done. It isn’t scrutinizing the budget of each department in sufficient detail to look for programs and line items that have outlived their usefulness or that need more investment. It can’t examine and analyze difficult policy questions carefully. It won’t question whether entire agencies and even departments still serve the purposes they were designed for. It isn’t even bothering to look beyond discretionary spending to consider reforms to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which is where most federal spending goes.

Congress no longer seems to know how to run a budget process. Most of its members have never experienced the traditional method. They just know how to hold their noses and vote up or down.

Lee Hamilton was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana for 34 years.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Ronn Mott: Gaza 2014 — hatred lives on

    The rockets’ red glares have turned Gaza, part of the Palestinian authority, into a battleground with Hamas, a legislative terrorist organization that has been stockpiling armaments to use against Israel for years.

    July 25, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 25, 2014

    July 24, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: The Czar of Russia

    If you are expecting Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Republic, to react to the crisis in the Ukraine as an ordinary elected official, think again. Even though Putin is the President of the Russian Republic, this is not the job he wants. Putin also doesn’t want to be the chairman of a newly resurrected Communist Party in Russia. No, what he wants is to be the czar of a greater Russia.

    July 24, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 24, 2014

    • Clinic will expand basic health access
    • Misunderstanding truth about Islam

    July 23, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Work program needs industry buy-in

    Good help is hard to find. That’s essentially what Indiana companies have insisted for several years. The state struggles with a “skills gap,” the firms explain. They need employees, but can’t find enough — or in some cases, any — qualified Hoosiers. Businesses say too few applicants possess the “soft skills,” such as showing up for work on time or being able to effectively communicate with co-workers.

    July 22, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 23, 2014

    July 22, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Dragonfly

    The other morning I was moving the canister that holds our recycling material out to the curb when I saw a strange sight. What I saw was a dragonfly fighting with a bee.

    July 22, 2014

  • FLASHPOINT: News about reality, not affirmation

    The public’s trust in the news media keeps dwindling. At the same time, Americans’ political polarization keeps increasing.

    July 21, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Chickens as pets always turned out same way

    I suppose many of us who grew up on farms or in small towns adopted unusual pets. I had a fondness for chickens. My folks always kept a few chickens, not only to fry or roast, but also for the eggs.

    July 21, 2014

  • Readers’ forum: July 22, 2014

    • Supt. Ritz has right to govern
    • A tribute to a teacher
    • Rep. Pelosi shows ‘bungling idiocy’

    July 21, 2014

  • Readers’ forum: July 21, 2014

    • Theater brings the joy of music
    • Drawing closer to the spirit
    • Give some space to heterosexuals

    July 20, 2014

  • LovellEdwards.JPG MARK BENNETT: Former Terre Hautean Jim Lovell stood ready as Neil Armstrong’s backup on Apollo 11

    The words “Apollo 11” stir optimism in me.
    I was an elementary school kid growing up in Vigo County when Neil Armstrong put the first footprint on the moon on July 20, 1969. So much seemed possible

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • EDITORIAL: Vigo Jail study essential to determine strategy

    It comes as encouraging news that the Vigo County Council might include in its 2015 budget significant funding for an expert and neutral study of what can be done to replace or enhance the existing county jail.

    July 20, 2014

  • Readers’ forum: July 20, 2014

    • ‘Hotel Indiana’ has a sour tune

    • Kind words about the newspaper

    • Some questions about RTL video

    • No mercy for cop killers

    • Crack down on gun violence

    • Anti-Dem tirades mask GOP failures

    • Important day for participants

    • Appreciation for support

    July 20, 2014

  • FLASHPOINT: Solve our border crisis

    More than 60,000 unaccompanied alien children — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have been apprehended on America’s southern border during this fiscal year.

    July 20, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: World Cup over, but it was fun

    After many weeks and many games, the World Cup is over. While the world calls it “futbol,” only we in North America play another brand of football. It is very simple to understand why this is the world’s favorite game … all it takes is an empty lot, a round soccer ball, and you can get a futbol game together.

    July 18, 2014

  • FLASHPOINT: Living in peaceful communities requires collaboration

    Hoosiers have the right to live in peace. Yet, too many of our friends and neighbors are currently living in fear.

    July 18, 2014

  • Flashpoint: Will Gov. Pence be true to his word?

    This is written in response to recent remarks made by State Board of Education members.

    July 17, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 18, 2014

    July 17, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Presidential Ambush

    No wild-west ambush, either real or fiction, has been as successful as the ambush on President Barack Obama.

    July 17, 2014

  • READERS’ FORUM: July 17, 2014

    • Civil rights and burning cities

    • Quality service from Baesler’s

    July 16, 2014

  • FLAHSPOINT: Supt. Glenda Ritz ‘creating conflict’

    It has been my pleasure for the past year to serve as the newest member of the Indiana State Board of Education. I bring a fresh perspective to the board as an attorney and business executive who served as Director of Economic Development under former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and President of the Indy Partnership, a regional economic development organization charged with recruiting new companies to our state.

    July 16, 2014

  • tstribunestar Editorial: Continuing the standard

    U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett has raised the profile of his federally appointed position more than any individual to hold the job in decades. From the start, he was a man on a mission, and often that mission was focused on rooting out corruption, maintaining integrity in government and pursuing those who violated the public trust.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Readers’ Forum: July 16, 2014

    • The truth about property taxes

    July 15, 2014

  • Letter from BOE member: Superintendent Ritz ‘creating conflict’

    It has been my pleasure for the past year to serve as the newest member of the Indiana State Board of Education. I bring a fresh perspective to the board as an attorney and business executive who served as Director of Economic Development under former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and President of the Indy Partnership, a regional economic development organization charged with recruiting new companies to our state.

    July 15, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Collett Park

    Saturday at the Park, Collett Park, another beautiful wedding was held. They looked so nice in the warm weather with the Gazebo acting as church sanctuary, I would almost be tempted myself to do it again, and do it outdoors at the Park. No, no, no, not again, even as pretty as it is in the Park on a nice July Saturday.

    July 15, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 15, 2014

    • Are Fed policies hurting America?

    • Staying true to code of respect

    July 14, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Lots we did not have in those good ol’ days

    In my thankful moments, I’m glad I was not my grandmother’s daughter. I would miss the modern conveniences.

    July 14, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Legal marriages should be honored

    An eager and probably nervous couple stands before a minister or a judge or a county clerk and exchanges vows, accepting the legal, moral and ethical obligations of a marriage.

    July 13, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 14, 2014

    • Where did the 61 cents go?

    July 13, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity