The Budget Process Explained: More Democrat Obstruction

The partial government shutdown is on its 17th day, which started on Saturday, December 22nd to partially shutdown a quarter of the federal government, which included nine government agencies: the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Interior, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. What the media and Democrats are refusing to reference is the fact that three-fourths of the government is fully funded through fiscal year 2019, ending on September 30, 2019.

Below is a breakdown of the budget process:

Step 1: On or before the first Monday in February, the President submits to Congress a budget request for the next fiscal year, which would start on October 1.

Step 2: Both the House and Senate budget committee hold hearings and marks up budget resolutions, dividing up the discretionary and mandatory spending.

Step 3: Both the House and the Senate vote on their respective budget resolutions.

Step 4: Congress completes budget resolution or Congress enters the Reconciliation process, which is used to facilitate the passage of a budget resolution.

Step 5: House and Senate appropriations committees divide the discretionary spending among twelve subcommittees.

Step 6: Each subcommittee conducts hearings on the discretionary spending programs and votes and reports back the full committee.

Step 7: Each committee votes on the bill and sends it to their respective floors. In the Senate, the Budget Committee also checks to see whether any provisions include extraneous language in violation of the Senate’s Byrd Rule. Extraneous language includes six definitions, but most often requires the provision to not change outlays or revenues.

Step 8: Each chamber votes on their respective spending bill. Under the Byrd Rule, any Senator may introduce an amendment striking an extraneous measure or raise a point of order against it. The presiding officer determines whether the measure, provision or amendment is in order or is stricken. The Senate can only waive the Byrd Rule with three-fifths approval (60 votes if all 100 senators are present). If both chambers pass their respective bills, the differences are reconciled in a joint conference committee and then sent back to each chamber for a vote

Step 9: Conference report and spending bills are sent to the president and must be signed by October 1.

Step 10: If a bill is not signed by October 1, a continuing resolution is often approved and signed to keep the government funded at the current level until a specific time.

Of course this seamless process rarely happens. This current process has been in place for forty years; since then Congress has only managed to pass all of its required appropriation measures on time only four times: fiscal years 1977, 1989, 1995, and 1997.

As with President Trump's long of list of awaiting judicial nominees and cabinet appointments, a simple majority is only needed to pass the spending bill and confirm the nominees. What is causing the shutdown and the backlog of judicial confirmations is the filibuster rule. Due to the filibuster rule, Senate Democrats are able to filibuster any provision of the spending bill, which means 60 votes are required to break the filibuster.  To prevent further obstruction from the Democrats, Republican leadership could revise the filibuster threshold to 51, as they have done for judicial nominations.

But as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointed out today, the Democrats' obstruction of the budget process is just another one of their tactics to resist President Trump:

*1/10/2019 revised for content clarification.