Sen. Rick Scott in The Hill: To Stop an Omnibus, Republicans Must Embrace a Clean, Full-Year CR

February 23, 2024

The Hill
Sen. Rick Scott
February 23, 2024

Over the last four months, the United States Senate has spent more time crafting a bill to fund the government of Ukraine than it has to fund the government of the United States. It’s hard to believe that has happened, especially considering that we now are just days away from a government shutdown deadline with no clear plans from Senate leadership to address it. To keep the government open and avoid another massive omnibus spending bill, like the $1.7 trillion bill with more than 7,500 reckless earmarks that was jammed down our throats without any time for amendments or scrutiny in December of 2022, Senate and House Republicans must embrace a clean, full-year continuing resolution (CR). That would prevent Congress adding more reckless spending and digging us deeper in debt.

I am not a fan of CRs. I think CRs are a terrible way to govern which is why I have fought since I got elected in 2018 to pass the No Budget, No Pay Act. This bipartisan bill would make it the law that members of Congress must fulfill their basic job requirements and pass the annual budget resolutions and appropriations bills on time, not just fund the government with CRs, or forgo their taxpayer-funded salaries. Unfortunately, that bill has not yet passed so we have no pressure points to force Congress to do the right thing.

While I certainly believe that making the No Budget, No Pay Act the law would help keep Congress accountable to the American people, we must acknowledge the real problem that led us here. Last October, I led several senators on a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), urging him to prioritize appropriations measures on the Senate floor so we could finally have a process that allowed us to cut reckless spending and put us on a path toward fiscal sanity. Sadly, Schumer ignored our requests.

All of the spending bills for Fiscal Year 2024 have already been passed by the Appropriations Committee and are ready to move to the Senate floor, but Leader Schumer has decided to not let that happen and prevented the full Senate from debating and offering amendments on all of the spending titles. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also failed in not pressing Schumer to act.

It is clear that Schumer and McConnell have no interest in allowing representative government to work and instead only want the backroom deals that they craft to move forward. Both men were so obsessed with funding Ukraine’s government that they forgot to fund the government they actually work for, leaving us with no time and no plan. You don’t have to be in Washington long to know that when nobody is talking about the obvious problem, that means you’re about to get screwed.

I don’t know anyone that wants to see a government shutdown. I certainly don’t, which is why I have fought alongside Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to pass our bipartisan Prevent Government Shutdowns Act, to take shutdowns off the table and force Congress to work until its job of funding the government is complete. Since that has not become law either and we will face a potential shutdown just days from now, we have two choices. We can either pass a clean, full-year CR or allow leadership to force yet another massive, wasteful omnibus bill through the process. While both options would avoid a shutdown, only one will prevent Washington politicians from borrowing and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on reckless earmarks.

The fact that passing a clean, full-year CR is the best option available to Congress to avoid a government shutdown represents a complete and total failure of leadership in both the White House and the Senate. Washington’s growing comfort with the regular abandonment of the appropriations process and regular order has allowed massive reckless spending to become the norm. This year, with revenues down 9.3 percent in 2023 but increases in federal spending, we’ll see a nearly $1.8 trillion budget deficit. Since 2019, the U.S. population has increased just 1.8 percent but our federal budget is set to increase by 55 percent. That’s why the federal debt is nearly $35 trillion and rising every day. All of this debt has fueled a raging inflation crisis, pushing prices 17.9 percent higher today than they were when President Biden took office.

Even in the face of these terrible figures, I remain optimistic. We are nearly six months into Fiscal Year 2024 and it’s clear that we need to leave behind any plans there may have been to pass all 12 appropriations bills for this year and move forward with crafting, debating, amending and passing the Fiscal Year 2025 spending bills that will need to be approved by both chambers before Sept. 30. While doing so, Congress needs to work on structural reforms to our spending process like the No Budget, No Pay Act and Prevent Government Shutdowns Act.

We must avoid a government shutdown, stop an omnibus and put Congress back on the path to fiscal sanity. Passing a clean, full-year CR will give Congress the time it needs to get that job done.

Rick Scott represents Florida in the United States Senate. He is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget, and the former governor of Florida.