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“Opportunities Lost” – An Examination of the Breakdown of the Appropriations Process

The House Rules Committee Republicans released a report today outlining the breakdown of the appropriations process this year under the restrictive limits imposed by the Democratic majority. “Opportunities Lost” examines the appropriations process from 1992 to present and lays out the facts about how this year’s handling of these privileged bills differs from past consideration under Democratic and Republican majorities, as well as the real reasons behind Democratic majority’s crackdown.

“In locking down the appropriations process, the Democratic majority has shredded the 220 year-old tradition of the House and denied members on the both sides of the aisle the opportunity to speak out on behalf of their constituents,” Rules Ranking Republican David Dreier (R-San Dimas, CA) said. “They have issued multiple excuses for their abuse of power, but as this report demonstrates, none of them hold up. They claimed the Republicans were abusing the process, but the numbers show Democrats were just as active when they were in the minority. They claimed they had to rush to get the bills done before the August recess to avoid an omnibus bill, but they have no guarantees the Senate will finish its work in time to avoid that outcome. They claimed appropriations bills are no different than any other bills considered by the House, but even a basic reading of the Rules and practices of the House indicates otherwise. The fact is, the Democratic majority could not let democracy get in the way of their efforts to impose a radical, bloated agenda before the American people knew what was happening. Unfortunately for the majority, the American people are waking up.”

“Opportunities Lost” discusses the following key points about the appropriations process and the current crackdown:

  • While the number of appropriations amendments have increased over the years, the percentage increase when the Democrats became the minority in 1995 was actually greater than the increase when Republicans became the minority in 2007;
  • 2009 represents the first year, including the entirety of the Republican Majority, that all (or even a majority of) appropriations bills were considered under restrictive rules;
  • Even though Democrats point to 2006, the last year that they were in the minority, as the model for conducting appropriations debate, the debate they set up for 2009 made in order 40 percent fewer amendments and reduced the amount of debate time by the same amount;
  • The real reason behind the change, as described by separate Democratic leaders, was to insulate majority members from “having to cast politically painful votes.” 

The report includes data on all of the appropriations bills considered from 1992 through 2007, and can be found on the Rules Committee Republicans’ web site here.

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