Moran Points to Annual Spending Bills as the Key to Congressional Oversight

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WASHINGTON, DC – In a speech yesterday morning to a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran urged Congress to focus on passing the 12 annual spending bills that fund the various agencies and departments of the federal government, saying that, “Only when we have the power of the purse do they start paying attention to us.”

“Passing the budget is important,” Moran stated, referring to the joint fiscal blueprint that the House and Senate passed earlier this year.  “But the significance of passing the budget is actually the ability to do appropriation bills.  If you ask me what my legislative agenda is, there is a long list of things that I’m interested in and involved in.  But I would say that the thing that I primarily want to focus on is forcing the United States Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to pass 12 appropriation bills.

“To have them work their way through the subcommittee of appropriations, the full committee and onto the Senate floor matters significantly.  A primary function of Congress is to establish spending priorities.  But the other part of it is it gives us the opportunity to rein in agencies and departments. We have given up the power of the purse in Congress.  One of the reasons that Harry Reid wanted to do nothing is that if we are not doing appropriation bills — if we are doing continuous resolutions and omnibus spending bills instead — then the chance of us having any influence over a department head or a cabinet secretary is greatly diminished.

“Only when we have the power of the purse do they start paying attention to us. It creates a dialogue, an opportunity to have conversation with a cabinet secretary or an agency head.  And if they don’t listen or are uncooperative, you have the greater threat — which is no money can be spent. That’s why I think appropriation bills are so important.”

Moran is serving his first term in the Senate, after having previously represented the 1st Congressional District of Kansas in the House.  A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the panel’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and the FDA, Moran said he viewed the appropriations process as a way to not only to rein in the federal government, but get key provisions and other legislative priorities through.

“Whatever the issue is — from the FCC to the CMS — we have the opportunity to say, ‘I’m sorry, but this makes no sense to us,’ the Kansas lawmaker stated.  “Think of passing a piece of legislation dealing with the Endangered Species Act or with clean water.  If you were capable of getting 60 votes and sent a bill to President Obama dealing with an environmental issue, do you believe the President would sign the bill?  My guess is he would not if it was undermining his environmental agenda.  But what if you have a proviso in an appropriations bill? This is a question the President will have to face.  Do I veto a bill because of a proviso that deals with clean water or endangered species and, in a sense, shut down 1/12th of federal spending?  Maybe he would.  But what I would argue is we have a greater chance of getting something done that’s a proviso in an appropriation bill than a frontal assault on the President’s agenda.

“The challenge we have is floor time.  If you’re observing the Senate, the Democrats are eating up every minute they can and using delaying tactics that are making it more difficult for us to have the necessary floor time to do those things.  We ought to be collectively holding our own feet to the fire to say that appropriation bills matter.  Not only for the purpose of how much money we spend and where we spend it, but for the purpose of getting the attention of the agencies and departments.”

One department that needs particular attention, Moran noted, is Veterans Affairs, which has not only been plagued by years of abuse and mismanagement, but, he added, has been standing in the way of The Choice Act, reform legislation that was approved last year by Congress and is intended to improve the quality — and accessibility — of the care that veterans receive.

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“It spends $15 billion,” Moran said of the bill.  “Five billion for the VA to hire more health care professionals, and $10 billion to provide care outside the VA.  It also says that if you can’t get the services you need from the VA within 30 days, or if you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, then the VA must provide those services at home if that’s the veteran’s choice.  In my view, that is a good development.  It reduces the workload at the VA.  At the same time, we’re trying to help them put more professionals on staff.  We’ve removed folks from having to wait in those lines because they can get services at home.”

Unfortunately, Moran pointed out, the VA is “not supportive of The Choice Act. They see it as a threat to keeping the dollars within the buildings.”  As an example, he noted that the Department has interpreted the law as being 40 miles as the crow flies, as opposed to the actual miles a veteran needs to drive.  Moreover, in some states, including Kansas, the Department has indicated it plans to have a mobile van counted as a facility despite the fact that vans often do not offer all of the services or care that veterans require.  “They’re not putting the veteran’s best interests at the forefront,” Moran declared.  They’re putting the interests of the VA at the forefront.”

“So when we talk as Republicans about smaller government and common sense solutions, the VA is a perfect example of why we ought to make certain that we are successful in our views. We want to take care of our veterans.  But we can find different and better ways than adding to the bureaucracy that exists at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.”

To view the complete remarks of Senator Moran before The Ripon Society’s breakfast discussion yesterday morning, please click on the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.