We all know the quote (improperly attributed to Albert Einstein) “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Congress must not. The predictable periodic impasse over the federal debt ceiling threatens once again. This crisis arises every time the Republicans hold one (or both) houses of Congress, but not the White House. The debt ceiling was raised three differing times while Donald Trump resided at 1600 Pennsylvania with no fanfare. Attempting to rein in federal spending by threatening financial default is akin to shouting “I love you” to your ex-girlfriend as she walks down the aisle on her wedding day to marry another guy. It is desperate. It is probably not going to stop anything and will surely infuriate a lot of people.

The time to curtail spending is through the annual budget process. The President releases a budget proposal early in the year and Congress gets to debate and modify accordingly in the intervening months by the October 1st deadline. The trouble is that Congress has not passed a budget on time in the last 27 years. For many years they did not even pass a budget but instead passed a “continuing resolution” which is a temporary funding measure for a specified limited time. Since 2010, they have kicked the continuing resolution down the road forty-seven differing times. The more recent stunt is to combine all spending packages into a single “omnibus” mega-bill and demand lawmakers pass it without giving them time to read, debate, or negotiate. Fortunately, in the approved “House Rules” of the 2023 Republican-led 118th Congress, one compromise that the GOP rebels forced before they would make Kevin McCarthy speaker was to ensure appropriation bills were brought up individually, give lawmakers at least 72 hours to read them, and allow more amendments from rank-and-file members. This was a good thing, and they deserve credit for this.