Unfortunately, both today and while we were in office, Congress has simply been unable to deliver on one of its most fundamental responsibilities — passing, on time, the spending bills necessary to fund and run the government.
It has been more than 1,000 days since Congress last passed a budget on time, and well over a decade since it did so with all appropriations bills.
While in office, we were paid regardless of whether we passed a budget, let alone on time. We were paid whether or not we did our jobs, and this is simply not right. Citizens don’t get paid if they can’t do their jobs, and neither should Congress.
This is the basic concept behind the bipartisan No Budget, No Pay Act, which is to receive a hearing from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on March 14.
No Budget, No Pay holds members of Congress accountable for doing their job on time. If Congress doesn’t pass a budget and spending plan by Oct. 1, members will not be paid until all spending bills are completed and sent to the president.
The No Budget, No Pay Act is one of a dozen proposals designed to fix congressional dysfunction by No Labels (NoLabels.org), a group of Republicans, Democrats and independents dedicated to making American government work again.
As former governors of neighboring states, we were obligated to present and execute a budget. Both of us worked with our opposing party to ensure that this most basic function of government got done.
Unfortunately, our experiences in the Statehouse were not replicated in Washington. In two terms in the Senate, we saw both the very best and very worst Washington had to offer. While a number of senators worked in good faith across the aisle, it was akin to pushing a boulder up a mountain. Various interests rewarded allegiance to ideology and encouraged members to remain in their partisan corners.
Members struggle to accomplish anything in this system, and the failure of Congress to pass a budget has tangible, negative impacts across America. When spending bills aren’t passed, Congress must either shut down the government or rely on temporary spending legislation. We watched these stopgap measures create uncertainty and inefficiency in the federal government, hurting agencies’ ability to effectively plan for the future and costing taxpayers additional money.
Uncertainty in the budgeting process has lasting consequences. It affected our veterans when the Veterans Health Administration was forced to delay hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to veterans’ hospitals.
The lack of a binding budget affected the health and wellness of our society when the Food and Drug Administration was unable to hire and train enough people to perform safety inspections. And in 2011, the National Institutes of Health had to postpone grants for cutting-edge medical research.
Just this past year, budget uncertainty caused the Department of Defense to delay critical maintenance of Humvees and cancel research on next-generation weapons systems.
Budget uncertainty also fuels dysfunction when, instead of a binding budget, Congress must resort to enormous end-of-year omnibus spending bills to continue funding critical initiatives. Members are forced to vote for a veritable kitchen sink of unnecessary provisions in order to fund the necessary programs in the bill.
The persistent failure of Congress to pass a budget remains as unacceptable today as when we were in Congress. Our constituents sent us to Washington to do the work of the American people, and systemic gridlock has harmed the very people we were sent to represent.
The American people have sent a message, and it’s time their public servants in Congress heard it. Only 9 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, while 88 percent support the No Budget, No Pay initiative, according to a recent No Labels poll.
To begin to truly change Washington, we need to pass the No Budget, No Pay Act into law. While the bill may not be a cure-all for congressional dysfunction, it’s a good place to start. Call your senator or member of Congress. Raise this issue with anyone running for Congress this year. Let them know you support No Budget, No Pay and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.