A dereliction of duty
It is said that Abraham Lincoln once remarked in exasperation at the inaction of Federal General George McClellan, “If General McClellan isn’t going to use his army, I’d like to borrow it for a time.” My colleagues in the House of Representatives and I understand the sentiment. The United States Senate has legislative powers vested in it by Article I of the Constitution, just like the House, but it doesn’t seem interested in using them. This inaction is preventing us from solving problems that face our country today.
In one of the chief congressional powers, the power of the purse, the gap between House action and Senate action is particularly egregious. Before fiscal year 2017 had even expired on September 30, the House had passed all 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2018. Each of these bills had moved via regular order through committee, and every Member was able to offer input on them through the amendment process.
I believe the spending plan which emerged from this process benefits the Ninth District and the country as a whole. Non-defense discretionary spending decreases by 1.7 percent, funding important programs but with appropriate fiscal restraint. The appropriations package includes funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission and Community Development Block Grants. While we made prudent cuts in some areas, we added $2.734 million to the Black Lung Clinics Program and boosted funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs by 5 percent over fiscal year 2017. This plan is a responsible, careful approach to funding the government.
The continuing resolution funding the government expires on December 8, less than a month from now. The House has acted. The Senate, in contrast, has not passed a single appropriations bill, whether ours or its own.
This inability to act damages the Republic. Everyone thinks Congress isn’t working, but the House has passed plenty of legislation, including appropriations and a replacement for Obamacare. We are working hard, but senators of both parties aren’t helping us finish the job. As a result, the public is losing confidence in our governmental institutions.
For those of you who don’t read this column regularly, you should know I have written plenty of times about the Senate’s dysfunction, both under Democrats and Republicans.
It has been frustrating to watch good bills come out of the House of Representatives only to have no action taken by the Senate. This frustration is compounded by the Senate’s repeated refusal to advance bills of its own. How can we solve problems when one chamber of Congress doesn’t even suggest its own solutions?
As the deadline for funding the government approaches, the Senate should either pass its own appropriations bills so we can go to conference and make a deal, or it should take up ours and pass them. Not passing anything is unacceptable. The House has fulfilled its constitutional responsibilities and its obligations to the American people. The Senate must follow suit.
I anticipate that the House will vote on tax reform soon. The tax bill passed by the Ways and Means Committee, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, won’t do everything I want it to do. Some of its provisions will likely have to be reexamined over time after they are implemented. But it would be an improvement over the current system. The present tax code simply doesn’t work. It stifles job creation, encourages companies to build new factories overseas while merely patching existing ones in our country, and bewilders most taxpayers.
The tax reform proposal before the House moves in the right direction. It lowers most rates and simplifies them. It makes America more competitive for business. It stops punishing companies that try to bring their profits back to our country to invest rather than keep them offshore. I believe this bill will create jobs and let most families keep a little more of their money.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is still being amended, and I hope that this process will refine it. However, I will take this half a loaf, which beats the moldy, rat-eaten loaf of bread in the cupboard that is our current code.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.