The Senate has largely done its part to meet a major deadline, which is only a month away. September marks the end of the fiscal year, when federal funding decisions are due for 2019.
Thanks to bipartisan support for open debate and amendments, many of the funding decisions for next year have already been approved by the full Senate and are well on their way to becoming law. When the House of Representatives gavels back into session after Labor Day, the Senate will have passed at least 9 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, demonstrating significant and encouraging progress toward restoring regular order to the Senate floor.
Even some of the most persistent roadblocks have been overcome, such as the spending bill to fund the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor. Funding for these departments had not received Senate floor consideration since 2007 but has now been passed by a vote of 85 to 7.
Funding Oversight Is Essential to Constitution’s Checks and Balances
A regular appropriations process is good for the American taxpayer, because the consideration of funding bills individually allows Congress to apply appropriate oversight on government agencies and cut wasteful spending. Otherwise, the bills are put together in a massive, unwieldy “omnibus” measure to fund the government, which President Trump has said he would not sign again.
It is also critical for Congress to fulfill its unique “power of the purse,” a responsibility granted by the Constitution in its separation of powers. As representatives of the people, lawmakers are best positioned to identify local needs and direct the appropriate funding toward them. Likewise, control of the purse can put a check on any excessive spending by executive agencies.
Bipartisan Cooperation Needed During Consideration of Supreme Court Nominee
Another constitutional duty the Senate is set to fulfill next month is its consideration of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Justice Anthony Kennedy. I recently spoke on the Senate floor about my support for Judge Kavanaugh, reminding my colleagues of the “advice and consent” that the Constitution asks the Senate to provide for judicial nominees.
The noise from outside political groups who oppose Judge Kavanaugh should not distract from lawmakers’ full and thorough review of his credentials, which I have found to be impressive. With 300 published legal opinions, there is no shortage of information on Judge Kavanaugh’s legal philosophy. However, Democrats continue to make extraordinarily excessive demands in an effort to slow down the confirmation process. They have requested hundreds of thousands of documents from his career – more than any other previous Supreme Court nominee.
I look forward to the committee hearings and floor debate on Judge Kavanaugh, which are expected in the Senate in the coming weeks. I am also hopeful my Democratic colleagues will extend the same bipartisan spirit of cooperation to Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation process that has been essential to advancing this year’s appropriations bills. His many qualifications and well-regarded reputation should speak for themselves.