TPA Supports Rep. Flake to Keep Appropriations Process Open

David Williams

October 17, 2011

Yet again, Congress is behind schedule in passing appropriations bills.  Ok, let’s be honest, Congress is beyond late, and there is very little hope for an orderly process to resolve this problem.  There is already discussion about an omnibus appropriations bill.  An omnibus bill is one of those multi-thousand page pieces of legislation that contains multiple appropriations bills and could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.  In order to bring some sort of sanity back to the fiscal year (FY) 2012 spending process, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is urging his colleagues to keep the process of crafting, and voting on, an appropriations bill “open.”  What this means is that Rep. Flake wants to make sure that there is an opportunity to offer amendments to the omnibus before it is voted on.  On October 14, 2011, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance sent a letter of support for Rep. Flake’s efforts.

Read the full text of the letter below:

October 14, 2011

Representative Jeff Flake

240 Cannon House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Rep. Flake,

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) strongly supports your call for an open process for the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations bills.  Once again, Congress has failed to pass appropriations bills in a timely manner and is now looking for a quick and easy way to complete their work on the spending bills.  A closed process would put tax dollars at risk and be a step back in bringing more transparency to the spending process.   An attempt to limit debate will prevent amendments and result in reckless and un-scrutinized spending.

For far too long the appropriations process has been shrouded in mystery and earmarks.  Over the years members of Congress have used the omnibus process to add last minute earmarks and increase spending.  Despite a self-imposed moratorium on earmarks, TPA was the first to uncover earmarks in the 2012 House Defense Appropriations Bill.  There is no reason to think that earmarks won’t be slipped into an omnibus spending bill if there is no process to offer amendments.  Once they are in, it will be virtually impossible to get them out.

Earmarks are not the only problems lurking in an omnibus.  In November 2004 (right before Thanksgiving), there was an attempt to add a provision in the FY 2005 omnibus appropriations bill that would have allowed the House and Senate Appropriations Committee staff access to every American’s tax returns.  It was only because of public scrutiny including news media and the blogosphere that the provision was stripped.  Nobody in either chamber took responsibility for the provision.  This cannot happen again.

Your quest for an open process is an example of smart government.  TPA is fully supportive of your efforts and urge all of your colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to support your attempts to open up the remainder of the spending bills for debate.


David E. Williams