Congress Deserves No Praise for Manufacturing a Budget Crisis Then Averting It

At 1:30am this morning Congress reached a year-end agreement on a budget that would avert a government shutdown.

But that’s basically where the good news stops.

There’s just no good reason that we must wait until the 11th hour to decide on a funding bill for the country. This is a completely manufactured crisis that gives enormous power to special interests eager to attach poison-pill budget provisions that would never pass as standalone pieces of legislation, but nevertheless find their way into the must-pass, year-end spending bill.

For example, while public pressure kept the worst of the anti-campaign finance provisions out, the bill nevertheless contains riders that would temporarily prevent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from issuing new rules to shed light on undisclosed money in elections.

There is broad public agreement on transparency in elections. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, 75 percent of Americans favor requiring outside groups to disclose their political spending. Another recent poll revealed that 88 percent of Democrat and Republican primary voters agree that the SEC should require corporations to disclose their political spending.

There is just no debate over whether Americans want transparency in election spending. To use a manufactured crisis to pass provisions that the vast majority of American unequivocally disagree with is a national disgrace.

And as a country, we should be horrified. Legislating this way is antithetical to democracy, but it’s become completely commonplace. Last year this exact game plan yielded a budget provision literally written by Wall Street lobbyists that deregulated risky Wall Street trading, and another that dramatically increased the amount that wealthy donors could contribute to national party committees.

To be clear: this is not governing. Legislating this way does an immense disservice to the American people who deserve thoughtful leadership, not a rollercoaster ride from crisis to crisis.