This week my colleagues and I introduced the No Budget, No Vacation Act to ensure Congress passes a budget. This bill says that if Congress hasn’t passed a budget and regular appropriations bills by August, members shouldn’t be able to leave Washington, go on vacation, or travel anywhere else.
In addition to national defense, one of the most fundamental responsibilities of Congress is to fund the government. Yet since 1974, Congress has only passed all of its appropriations bills four times. Four.
And that isn’t the only shocking number associated with Congress’ dysfunctional budget process. The U.S. is $21 trillion in debt, we have shut down the government 20 times since 1976, and Congress has only passed a budget resolution 11 times in the past 20 years.
These aren’t just numbers. They translate to lost economic output and real consequences for our country. For example, our reliance on continuing resolutions has forced the U.S. Department of Defense to ground or underfund dozens of programs, resulting in $4 billion in waste for the Navy since 2011.
Congress only has a few weeks to finish a dozen spending bills before the end of the fiscal year. We also have many presidential nominations to confirm, and have a number of other important “must pass” legislative initiatives from the Farm Bill to the National Defense Authorization Act.
Commonsense begs the question: When we have unpassed appropriations and no budget, on top of a long legislative to-do list, why are we packing our bags and heading home for the entire month of August?
I grew up on a farm in southwest Iowa. Just like so many hardworking folks across the country, we sometimes worked sunrise to sunset, through late nights and weekends, because finishing the job could make or break your business for the year.
I also served 23 years in the Iowa Army National Guard and Reserves. In the military, if we didn’t get our work done on time, there were consequences. There weren’t vacations, weekends off, or breaks when we were transporting supplies to our troops in Iraq. When we were sent on a mission, we didn’t come back until it was completed.
Yet in Congress, members can fail to complete some of their most important duties and still take a month-long vacation.
This is not the way that hardworking Americans operate their businesses, and it shouldn’t be the status quo in Congress either. It is my firm belief that we should stay in Washington until we get our job done. If that requires us to stay in session 24-hours a day, seven days a week, then that is what we should be doing.
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, Georgia Sen. David Perdue, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and I introduced the No Budget, No Vacation Act to emphasize the need to stay and pass a budget and appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year.
I am ready and willing to stay until the Senate fulfills its obligations, and I will continue to urge Senate leadership and more of my colleagues to do the same. Congress must employ the same work ethic valued by our military and hard-working Americans across the country: you don’t quit until the job is done.