Reagan’s 1988 SOU: 3 hours to read 1,000-page behemoths


(Photo: Reagan Presidential Library)

“And then, along came these behemoths….You had three hours – yes, three hours – to consider each, and it took 300 people at my Office of Management and Budget just to read the bill so the government wouldn’t shut down.

ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS ON THE STATE OF THE UNION
January 25, 1988 full text
[snip]

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, I will say to you tonight what I have said before – and will continue to say: The budget process has broken down; it needs a drastic overhaul. With each ensuing year, the spectacle before the American people is the same as it was this Christmas – budget deadlines delayed or missed completely, monstrous continuing resolutions that pack hundreds of billions of dollars worth of spending into one bill – and a federal government on the brink of default.

I know I’m echoing what you here in the Congress have said because you suffered so directly – but let’s recall that in seven years, of 91 appropriations bills scheduled to arrive on my desk by a certain date, only 10 made it on time. Last year, of the 13 appropriations bills due by October 1st, none of them made it. Instead, we had four continuing resolutions lasting 41 days, then 36 days, and two days, and three days, respectively. And then, along came these behemoths. This is the conference report – 1,053 page report weighing 14 pounds. Then this – a reconciliation bill six months late, that was 1,186 pages long, weighing 15 pounds; and the long-term continuing resolution – this one was two months late and it’s 1,057 pages long, weighing 14 pounds. That was a total of 43 pounds of paper and ink. You had three hours – yes, three hours – to consider each, and it took 300 people at my Office of Management and Budget just to read the bill so the government wouldn’t shut down. Congress shouldn’t send another one of these. No and if you do, I will not sign it.

Let’s change all this; instead of a presidential budget that gets discarded and a congressional budget resolution that is not enforced, why not a simple partnership, a joint agreement that sets out the spending priorities within the available revenues? And let’s remember our deadline is October 1st, not Christmas; let’s get the people’s work done in time to avoid a footrace with Santa Claus. And yes, this year – to coin a phrase – a new beginning. Thirteen individual bills, on time and fully reviewed by Congress.

[Emphasis added. Reason magazine notes that Reagan did not object when this type of process in his first term helped him enact his tax cuts.]