Melissa Griffin CaenWriter, San Francisco Magazine; lawyer

Congressional Republicans Are Not Special Snowflakes
Posted: 10/04/2013 6:06 pm
Republican Party, Government Shutdown, Politics News

Quick, who said the following?:

“I believe that we must pass a continuing resolution to fund the operations of Government and that we must resist the temptation, however strong, to add all our most deeply felt causes to this essential appropriations bill.”

It was Republican Senator John Danforth of Missouri. And he said it on September 29, 1984.

In the history of government failures to pass appropriations for federal functions, impasses are usually based on, oh you know… stuff that’s actually in the appropriations bill, like military spending levels.

That Obamacare doesn’t even need an appropriation, and is thus sputtering forward despite Congress’ failure to pass a Continuing Resolution, is all the evidence you need to see that it is not appropriately included in the CR debate. But this is not the first time a wholly separate law has held up the passage of a CR.

Nope, much as certain Congressional Republicans believe themselves to be special, special snowflakes, they are not.

In October 1984 Democrats in the Senate tried to attach the Civil Rights Act of 1984 to the CR. On October 1, 1984, the Philadelphia Inquirer described the issue thusly: “a bitter tug-of-war over civil rights legislation that has stalled action on an emergency money bill to keep most of the federal government solvent.”

At the time, Sen. Ted Kennedy made the case that Act was relevant to the CR because he didn’t want federal funds spent on institutions that discriminate. It was baloney, of course. One had nothing to do with the other; it just seemed the only way to get the dang thing passed before Election Day on November 6, 1984.

Kennedy wasn’t the only person who tried to attach non-germane pet projects like barnacles to the USS Continuing Resolution, but he was the only successful one.

At the midnight hour of a September 30, 1984 shutdown, the Senate voted to keep the government operational for two more days while an agreement was reached — the Democrats eventually removed the Civil Rights Act of 1984 from the CR and it passed on October 2, 1984. (The Civil Rights Bill wasn’t passed until 1989.)

In addition to Sen. Danforth’s statement above, here are some excerpts from the floor debate prior to the shut down. (From the Congressional Record, 98th Congress (1984) Part 2.)

“I do think the Senate should now have a chance to cast their vote for or against the so-called Civil Rights Act of 1985. If it wins, fine. If it loses, fine. But I do not particularly think encouraging this kind of action on a continuing resolution is wise at this time of the year, in this year. Nor will it be wise as a precedent in the coming years if we are going to look upon a continuing resolution as nothing but a gigantic Christmas tree to which we can, without any worry at all think about 1,200 amendments being added.”
-Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), September 29, 1984

“We are not voting on busing,* we are not voting on gun controls, we are not voting on abortion; we are voting on a continuing resolution to operate the Government past Sunday midnight. If we do not have the guts enough every now and then to do some things that are unpleasant and politically dangerous in order to keep this Government running, we have forfeited our fundamental responsibility as Members of the Senate.

My urging, Mr. President, is that we forget about the collateral issues and focus instead on the primary issue, and that is keeping this Government running.

There will be a chance and there will be adequate chance even yet this session for Members to speak on things like busing and gun control, and all the rest. But do not do it by trivializing the rules of the Senate. Do not do it by avoiding the responsibility of keeping this Government running, and do not do it 2 days before this fiscal year expires.”

*Other Senators were trying to put in provisions about abortion, gun control and school busing.

-Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN) Senate Majority Leader, September 29, 1984

“Mr. Speaker, all of these issues deserve independent consideration. They should not be tied into a continuing resolution.”
-Rep. Vin Weber (R-MN), October 1, 1984.

And as we approach a potential further shutdown on the debt ceiling:

“I know that some feel it imperative to cast another vote against the debt ceiling, but unless we are willing to shoulder the blame for shutting government down, we will have to eventually pass something.”
-Rep. Delbert Latta (R–OH), October 1, 1984.

His son, Bob Latta, now represents Ohio’s 5th district. So far, Latta Junior has voted in lockstep with the shutdown-causing GOP.

See, Republicans in this Congress aren’t the first to see the power of attaching non-germane bills to the CR. They’re just the first to go this far to gamble our republic on it.

Maybe they are special after all.