H.J. Res. 465 – Making Further Continuing Appropriations for FY 1986

Summary
Six days before Christmas 1985, with funding for the government due to expire at midnight, Congress passed this omnibus appropriations measure accounting for seven regular bills not previously enacted. The package contained the full text of four of the bills, while the other three were included by reference. The 379-page conference report totaling $368.2 billion was filed at 11:15 a.m. Immediately afterwards, the House began debate on a rule waiving all points of order against the bill and its consideration. It passed one hour later, debate began and the House agreed to H.J. Res. 465 by 1:35 p.m. The Senate took it up and passed it shortly thereafter, enabling President Reagan to sign it into law the same day.

Overview

    Congress: 99th

    Date: December 19, 1985

    Majority party: Democrats (House), Republicans (Senate)

    Bill sponsor: Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D-MS)

    Committees of jurisdiction: House Committee on Appropriations, Senate Committee on Appropriations

    President: Ronald Reagan

Timeline
Methodology

House action on conference report
One hour to read 379-page conference report

    Thurs., 12/19/1985 (11:15 AM) — Conferees file H. Rept. 99-450, the conference report to accompany H.J.Res. 465. BEGIN READING
    Thurs., 12/19/1985 (11:30 AM) — House brings up H.Res. 348, a rule waiving all points of order against the conference report.
    Thurs., 12/19/1985 (12:15 PM) — House passes H.Res. 348.
    Thurs., 12/19/1985 (12:15 PM) — House begins consideration of H.Rept. 99-450. END READING
    Thurs., 12/19/1985 (1:35 PM) — House agrees to conference report by vote of 261-137 (Roll No. 476).

Senate action on conference report
Less than 12 hours to read 379-page conference report

    Thurs., 12/19/1985 (11:15 AM) — Conferees file H. Rept. 99-450, the conference report to accompany H.J.Res. 465. BEGIN READING
    Thurs., 12/19/1985 — Senate begins consideration of conference report. END READING
    Thurs., 12/19/1985 — Senate agrees to conference report by voice vote.

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Background

During House debate on the rule which provided for quick consideration of the bill, Members eyeing adjournment for the holiday urged its passage.
Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) said:

Mr. Speaker, this is the rule by which the Committee on Ruled hopes to make this a merry Christmas for all of us and for the rest of the Government….The rule is the vehicle by which the Appropriations Committee comes to the floor, and in accord with the spirit of the season the rule should be adopted. Mr. Speaker, when the House failed to agree to the first conference report on Monday night, many of us worried that the Congress would be forced to remain in session until Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day in order to finance the operations of Government that have not received their appropriations. The adoption of this rule will not guarantee that today will be our last day, but it will move us one step close to adjournment.

After the rule was adopted and consideration of the bill began, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-MS) noted:

We bring you a bill in which I take great pride because we have not a single amendment in controversy, not even a technical amendment. Now when I say that, I am proud that you have trusted us to do the very best we could. I have in all candor to say that the fact everybody wants to go home may have contributed somewhat to that and enabled us to be granted a rule which made this possible….Again, the Senate conferees, House conferees, and the executive branch have gone along to where we bring you a bill without a single amendment in disagreement, not even a technical amendment. In all candor, I have to admit perhaps it is because we are ready to go home.

Rep. Silvio Conte (R-MA) said:

I predicted a while ago that we would be hearing “Jingle Bells” before this bill became law, and when the House defeated our first conference report the night before last, I couldn’t help thinking about the “Night Before Christmas.” But I believe that we have brought back a bill that all of my colleagues can support, and at this point, I only wish for a “Silent Night,” a quick vote, and a rapid adjournment.

Many Members echoed similar sentiments. Rep. Vic Fazio (R-CA) said:

Mr. Speaker, in general, let me simply say that we do not find ourselves here today in a state of anarchy that confronted us the other night when we defeated the conference report. We have worked on the bull and, I think, calmed down and realized that it is time that we go about the business of celebrating the holidays with our families, leaving these matters behind us here. We are not proud of every item in this product, but most of them are worthy of our support. It is the best we can do and we need to pass it.

Rep. Charles Bennett (D-FL) said:

I plan to vote for the passage of this bill, as I did before when it was before us, because there has to come an end eventually to legislation and we are at the end of the session.

During consideration in the Senate, Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR) said:

Mr. President, I regret that this measure has been so long delayed, and that it covers so many fiscal year 1986 appropriation bills. Perhaps more than anyone in this body I deplore conducting our business in this way. For 5 years I have pushed, pulled, and urged, wheedled, and cajoled this body, striving to attain timely consideration, passage, and enactment into law the 13 regular appropriation bills. Some years have been better than others, and this has not been a very good year. Because a budget resolution was not adopted until August 1, the Committee on Appropriations was not able to secure Senate passage of regular appropriation bills prior to the August recess except for two that were called up under a unanimous- consent agreement waiving section 330 of the Budget Act.
Once Congress returned from the August recess on September 8, the legislative calender was cluttered with other priority items, and only one more regular fiscal year 1986 bill, the Treasury bill, was passed by the Senate before the first continuing resolution to maintain operations of Government became necessary, That first continuing resolution was a straightforward measure unencumbered with extraneous amendments, and it passed the Senate in short order, and went straight to the White House on September 25, a week before the deadline.
I thank my colleagues again for their forbearance and cooperation in that expeditious action.
In the duration of that continuing resolution which expired on November 12, the Senate was able to make good progress on additional fiscal year 1986 appropriation bills despite extraordinary contentiousness with our colleagues on the Budget Committee on the question of outlay estimates, and the initial debate on reconciliation and the debt limit.
In that time, we passed 7 more fiscal year 1986 bills; namely, Commerce, Agriculture, HUD, District of Columbia Transportation, Labor- HHS, and Military Construction bringing the total acted upon by the Senate to 10. Unfortunately, we were not able to complete Senate consideration of the remaining three bills although we did have some debate on the Interior bill.
I really do not like that situation, Mr. President, when the Senate does not have an opportunity to consider an appropriations bill on their own as separate measures. This is true of all of them, but particularly so of the Defense bill. Senator Stevens and Senator Stennis worked long and hard to craft a bill under very difficult circumstances.
And their product was deserving of the consideration of the entire body. But that was not to be, Mr. President. And we now have before us the continuing resolution that will complete our appropriations business for this year. It is supported by the administration, as I have indicated, and it passed the House earlier this afternoon by a vote of 261 to 137, almost 2 to 1.
I will urge its adoption when it comes time for that consideration.

Sen. John Stennis (D-MS) said:

Let me say this, too, that his bill is very unusual. It has been a very unusual course for legislation to take, a continuing resolution that covers for over half of the active budget. It is not the best but it was the only way that this could be handled this year. The difficulties of Government that go with the times are all here to be contended with, as I say, under a handicap. I believe this bill, itself, is perhaps the largest, most extensive appropriations bill that has been passed in the history of the Nation and caries the complications of many of the departments of Government, being a continuing resolution.

Policy criticisms by others

Rep. John Porter (R-IL) was one of many Members concerned with the chemical weapons provisions in the measure. During debate on the rule, he said:

Mr. Speaker, let me first comment our conferees on the House side. I think they fought the good fight yesterday, and the fact that the other body largely prevailed does not reflect adversely on them. Time, of course, at this point in the process is a weapon. We are at the end, everyone is tired, we want to go home, and certainly our conferees did their very best to have the House provisions prevail.
Largely, however, they did not prevail. They did not prevail on something that has been of great concern to me since I was elected to Congress 6 years ago and on which I have worked very hard, and that is the issue of funding for the production of chemical weapons….
This provision, which was in the fourth continuing resolution that was defeated, is exactly the same in this fifth continuing resolution. I do not agree with it, and I hope Members will vote against this continuing resolution. The fact is that with this continuing resolution the foot is in the door and the historic commitment that the United States made to not produce these terrible weapons 16 years ago will in fact be broken.
Mr. Speaker, the fight on chemical weapons will continue. I, for one, am not going to stand idly by while the United States wastes $20 billion or more on new weapons we do not need.

Process criticisms by ReadtheBill.org
During debate on the rule, Rep. John Porter (R-IL) said:

Seeing this process up close as I have, there is something that this House, and the other body must do. The thing that we must do is to terminate the use of the continuing resolution. It is a terrible, unconscionable, irresponsible way to legislate, and it is something that none of us should have any part of.
This is the fifth continuing resolution, Mr. Speaker. It is sixth if we count the one that failed. Our deadline of September 30 has long since passed. It has been pushed back five times, and here we are on December 19 with our work still not finished.
And here we are, lumping $370 billion worth of spending into one bill on one vote, and while we can largely blame the other body for its failure to move the appropriations process forward in a responsible manner, the fact is that this is no way to do business.
I will be working in the second session of Congress to see that we do not have these kinds of continuing resolutions in the future. We should be handling each of the 13 appropriation bills one at a time, letting them stand on their own, letting them be amended and discussed, letting the conference reports be considered separately, and getting them out and on the President’s desk on time. This is my commitment and I invite all my colleagues who care about fairness and fiscal responsibility to join my next year in this effort.
Mr. Speaker, it is high time that responsibility worked its way into this process and that we act in an up-front and equitable manner. I will not support this CR. I am not satisfied with the provisions. I imagine that other Members, anxious to go home, will. But, Mr. Speaker, the fact is we did not prevail in the conference, the report is substantially the same as the one we defeated on Monday and still deserves a “no” vote.

Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-CA) said:

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that Government requires for consumers of this country is that we have a Truth- in- Lending Act. One of the things that we should follow ourselves is a truth- in- legislation act.
This bill that is before us, it is about an inch thick, is called joint resolution making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 1986 and for other purposes. The problem with its title is that it is really not being honest with all of us. What we should call this tome is an act to deny the Chief Executive the ability to exercise the power given to that person by the Constitution; namely, the veto.
When we send to the White House roughly a third of the Federal spending in 1 year in one document, virtually on the eve of Christmas, we are severely limiting the options of our President with respect to controlling runaway spending. We should not lose sight of the fact that the resort to the CR is not an accident. It is a deliberate result from the political processes of this country, whereby one of the three institutions of Government, the White House, can be controlled by one party, the Republicans in this instance, and one or both Houses of Congress can be controlled by another party, the Democrats. The Democrats control this House and have continuously for the last 30 years.
Their remedy for the ills of America is to increase social spending anytime they get a chance, and the means by which they have asserted their leverage is to combine in this continuing resolution tempting morsels for defense along with sensitive increases for domestic program spending. And then to give to the President the unenviable choice of whether or not to criticize the increases in social spending that are out of control in this country, and in so doing, limit the ability that he, as our Chief executive, believes we need in the area of increased defense spending.
That is the game that is being played.
I do not choose to give this Member’s vote from California in the way of approval of this subterfuge undermining the use of the Chief Executive asserting a veto. In the last 4 years since President Reagan was elected, the CR, has been too often used. In fact, it has become a commonplace….
This is a subversion of the legislative process, and I think we should give it the fate it justly deserves and reject it.

During consideration of the bill itself, Rep. John Porter (R-IL) said:

Mr. Speaker, if the continuing resolution we defeated earlier this weak was a poor one, then this one is also a poor one and should be defeated. I do nor blame our conferees for this; they worked very hard. I blame the process through which they had to work….
All in all, this continuing resolution is almost as bad as the one that we defeated. I will vote “no.” I urge my colleagues to vote no. Seven of the thirteen appropriation bills are in this one vote, yes or no, up or down, on $370 billion of spending. Mr. Speaker, this is a lousy way to do business.

Rep. Berkley Bedell (D-IA) said:

I appreciate the heroic efforts of the House conferees to obtain the best bill possible in the face of adamant intransigence on the part of the Senate conferees right up to what will probably be the last day of this year’s session. But here we are, presented with a huge package bill appropriating hundreds of billions of dollars and allowed one yes-or- no vote on whether or not to keep the Government running. Some will say that there is nothing unusual about this, and that we do this every year. Unfortunately, this is true. This year, much of the fault lies with the Senate, since we in the House acted on 12 of the 13 regular appropriations bills over 1 month ago, but they languished while the Senate failed to act.
Ultimately, however, I cannot accept the Senate’s delay and intransigence up to the last minute as a reason to support a bill which must be judged or its own merits.

During Senate consideration, Sen. Stevens (R-AK) said:

Mr. President, we come to the floor today with a final defense bill within the continuing resolution that is a product of what I consider to be the most difficult and protracted conference negotiations in recent years. The final product, I submit, represents the best possible compromise of what appeared to be irreconcilable differences between the House and Senate….
Mr. President, I cannot end without pointing to one of the biggest villains in the defense funding scenario. It is the cumbersome and increasingly ineffective congressional process for developing funding goals, not only for defense but for all Federal programs. And the legislation we now discuss is the best example of the failure of that process. Here we are again considering a catch-all continuing resolution created simply to rescue a gaggle of appropriation bills that could not be passed in an orderly fashion. And I am not pointing the finger at the Appropriations Committee. I am talking about the process as a whole that begins with a seemingly endless debate over budget resolution goals that fails to produce a budget resolution on time. This is followed by delays in authorization bills and, in turn by delays in the appropriations measures.
It is December 19, Mr. President, 2 months and 19 days into fiscal year 1986—2 months and 19 days after we should have completed action on all appropriations bills. How the Department of Defense can operate without an established budget and still do its job is beyond my understanding. The Pentagon is now trying to develop a 1987 budget, and they don’t even know what the 1986 budget is. Can you imagine running a sizable private corporation with that kind of fiscal irresponsibility?
We need to bring down the deficit, but we also need to get our own house in order. We need to establish real priorities and support them in an orderly and timely fashion. Let’s quit adopting budget resolutions that project 3 percent real growth when we’re not willing to put up the dollars to support even a zero real growth. The Congress is simply unwilling to put money where its mouth is—to fund the level of spending authorized and required.

After the Senate agreed to the bill by voice vote, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) spoke at length about the deteriorating process:

Mr. President, I believe this is the fifth—I may be one short or one long—but I believe this is the fifth continuing resolution in a row to take care of the military authorization and the funds required to provide for the defense of this country. The fifth in a row for this Congress or other Congresses of the past.
Mr. President, this is no way in the world to run not only the defense of the country, but any department of our Government. Here we have been in session now nearly 12 months and we have probably done more business and spent more of the taxpayers money in the last 6 hours than we have in those whole 12 months….
What we are slowly doing, Mr. President, whether we like to admit it or not, is working ourselves into a situation where we do not really need committees of this Congress to conduct the business of this Congress. Let me try to explain that….
I do not believe that was the way the Founding Fathers of our country designed this country to be run. It is the finest idea of government that was ever conceived by man. But we are slowly turning it into chaos. we are slowly making it impossible for intelligence to come to the floor of this Senate, and say we need this piece of equipment, or we do not. We bring bills to this floor under ample rules. Mr. President, there is nothing really wrong with the rules of this Senate except one thing. We ignore them.
We are not supposed to legislate on appropriations bills nor appropriate on legislation bills. But we do it, and do it, and do it. The military authorization bill that I started off on had 117 amendments when we brought that bill to the floor, and five of them had any relation at all to the defense of our country.
There is nothing wrong with the rules of this Senate. What is wrong with the rules of this Senate is nobody pays any attention to them. Just one little matter. It does not amount to much.
We have a 15-minute voting rule. Last year we spent 12 days, 12 days, voting on 15 minutes where we do not pay any attention to it. We some days may take an hour, half an hour, some days it might even take a half a day if somebody is off flying their airplane back to get in here, and they need the vote.
Mr. President, I did not intend to get off on this . But this has been bugging me for a long, long time. I have watched this Senate for nearly 30 years of my life. I have watched it operate under the rules as it should. I have watched it operate as a wonderful body where we knew what was going on. We knew when it was going on. We had a pretty good idea of how long it would take. And here i tis a week from Christmas, and I do now know anybody around here that would make me a small-sized bet that we are going to get out of here before Christmas Eve.
Why? We do not work Mondays. We work Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We do not work Fridays. That is wonderful if you come from a State east of the Mississippi. But if you live out in the States like the occupant of the Chair and I do, far, far west of the Mississippi, getting away from here on Friday does not mean a hoot. You cannot get an airline reservation. You cannot get home. So we stand around here, looking at some lousy television, read—I will not use the same term for the newspapers because they do have pretty good funny papers. But this body, this Congress, is not being run the way it should in the best interests of our country.
I have served here nearly 30 years. I do not think I have ever served in a Congress that has served so badly as this one where it is the time to go home, and the time has long since passed when we should have gone home. And we still do not know what the other House is going to do. We still do not know what we are going to do.
So, Mr. President, I merely stood up and when I did we just passed by voice vote a bill that contains over $300 million for defense purposes—no discussion, no understanding. When it came time yesterday, and the day before and the day before that for the military affairs under this bill to be discussed, do you think anybody from the Armed Services Committee discussed it? No. Somebody from the Appropriations Committee discussed it. That is as silly as asking me to discuss the agriculture bill. I do not even know which end of the shovel goes in the ground first. By golly, I am a little different than the other 100. I will admit it.
We bring bills in here, and we watch amendments pile up, pile up, pile up. They are not germane. We will not pass a rule relative to germaneness. So anything can be passed. The bills become nothing but Christmas trees.
When I came to this body I think we had, 1,300 people working on the Hill. I honestly believe that some of their jobs consist of sitting before a typewriter or a computer and doing nothing but writing amendments all day long so that somebody can stand on this floor and offer, and I have counted one day, eight different amendments by one Member.
Mr. President, that is not way to run this body.
We are fooling ourselves. We are lying to the American people when we try to tell them that we are doing the best we can for them.
We are doing a lousy job. It is time we faced up to it.