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Weekly Wastebasket: The Rule of Law Must Prevail



This is not normal. And this is not a normal Weekly Wastebasket.


At Taxpayers for Common Sense we use this piece to inform, vent, and occasionally rile up our supporters (and opposition). We had another scintillating budget process Wastebasket in the works. The events of January 6, however, intervened. The following is a statement TCS President Steve Ellis sent through his personal social media regarding the rioters' attack on the functioning of government:

What happened today at the people’s house cuts me deep in so many ways. I am outraged and saddened by what I saw. I am appalled and disgusted that so many have worked to stoke these fires and now seem surprised that the country got burned. I believe in rule of law and our republic. And I want to see every single person who vandalized our Capitol prosecuted.

Many TCS staff have stood in the Speaker’s Lobby, at the invitation of both Republican and Democratic speakers. We’ve convened in the chambers of the Senate Majority Leader, both the current leader and previous ones. And we’ll be back there again. Not because we buy access, or command a political action committee that can facilitate a primary opponent. But because non-partisan, common-sense budget expertise is still valued on Capitol Hill.

Taxpayers for Common Sense concentrates on making sense of budget, tax, and spending policies. These are the kinds of checkbook issues that affect every American taxpayer. But more than the specific issues, we’ve always taken pride in bringing actual common sense – and decency – to federal policymaking. And it’s earned us the respect, begrudgingly at times, of partisans of all stripes.

Washington has always been the center of the conflict. But even in TCS’s 25+ years, things seem to have gotten worse. Notably, there are a greater number of elected officials and voters that seem to deem illegitimate anyone with an opposing view. In a country as vast and diverse as the United States, the political beliefs and opinions will be equally vast and diverse. It has always been this way. If you think otherwise, you’ve clearly not read the Federalist Papers or much of U.S. history. What makes America great is the people and the institutions that not only allow but foster spirited debate. It’s never been easy. But it doesn’t have to be this hard.

In that spirit, we do have some immediate suggestions for how Congress and the American people can move forward. This isn’t comprehensive. But it’s a start.

Legislate. Don’t simply defer to the president, this one or the next. For years Congress has let its legislative and oversight muscles atrophy. Reinvigorating the War Powers Resolution, asserting Congressional prerogatives on trade, and taking ownership of the hundreds of federal programs running on expired authorizations would be a good start. The enduring policy requires legislation.

Make tough choices. It’s not a popular opinion now, but deficits do matter. There are pressing needs, from infrastructure to COVID response, to climate change, to a host of other issues. But Congress must make choices. Efforts like the new House Rules that allow leadership to waive budget rules for any climate change or COVID-related legislation are problematic. Statutory PayGo and the Budget Control Act (BCA) are blunt tools designed to force Congress to act. While imperfect, they did spur debate and action. Without these institutional constraints, it’s even more important that Members set good criteria. Which means you must legislate.

Finally, remember it’s not your office, it’s ours. You hold it for a moment. So do it with some humility. Follow the constitution. Respect others, both those who went before and those who will come after. Stick up for your values but understand it’s bigger than you. The Republic will endure much longer than you if you do your part to ensure it.