Congress usually deserves more condemnation than commendation when it comes to putting together the federal budget, but lawmakers have earned at least some praise for their work this year.
No real action was taken against the huge federal deficit. Those hard decisions were left for a non-election year. But for the first time in 11 years, the U.S. fiscal year began Oct. 1 with all 13 appropriations bill passed by Congress.Too often, the fiscal year has begun with the budget in total disarray, the financing of government extended week-by-week by continuing resolution.
The past two years saw all 13 appropriation bills tied up until one huge budget bill finally had to be sent to the president.
This led to treating the budget bill as a "Christmas tree" with Congress attaching all kinds of favorite legislation because the budget bill was essentially veto-proof.
The mammoth spending measure was so large that no one knew everything that was in it. This caused flagrant abuses that proved an embarrassment to Congress.
President Reagan beat the Democratic-controlled Congress over the head with that situation earlier this year, using the 1,057-page spending bill in his State of the Union address as a visual example of the ineptitude of the lawmakers.
Some Democratic members of Congress complained to their own leadership that such results could not be allowed again, especially in an election year.
With that in mind, a budget summit meeting between administration and congressional leaders in the fall of 1987 produced a $76 billion package of budget cuts and tax increases that smoothed the way for all of this year's budget measures.
The budget is complex and politically volatile, but lawmakers have shown they can move when prompted by fear of the voters in a presidential election year. Maybe something can be done about the deficit crisis if the public puts the same kind of pressure on the next Congress.