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Washington Week

August 31, 2010 - 6:00pm

This Congress, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has failed to pass a single appropriations bill through both houses of Congress.

Just so you know, there are 12 of these appropriations bills, and when passed by both the House and Senate, and signed into law by the president, they make up the total funding for our federal government for the upcoming fiscal year. The deadline to pass all 12 of these bills is Sept. 30.

This Congress is making history by failing to pass a single bill through Congress. While this may not seem like a big deal to many, it is really the only responsibility that was given to Congress via our Constitution. It reads as follows: "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time." -- Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution.

In order for the speaker and Sen. Reid to avoid a shutdown of the federal government come Sept. 30, they intend to work on packaging a single, huge omnibus appropriations bill that will merge all 12 single bills together into one.

This bill will contain the spending levels dictated by the speaker and Harry Reid and not by the appropriate committees in both the House and the Senate. Remember, these bills are not going through the standard procedure of the committee process and then floor debate. The GOP in Congress will be told to "take it or leave it" as to the funding levels. If they don't agree to the bill, they will be dubbed again as the "party of no."

This process makes me think of Glenn Beck's rally this past weekend in our nation's capitol. The "Restoring Honor" rally was a wonderful display of the American public wanting faith and honor restored in America and in our government. Maybe there should be a restoring honor rally for members of Congress to attend.

The enthusiasm of those attending the rally was obvious when this writer experienced it both Saturday and Sunday at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. The terminals were filled with rally-goers eager and excited about being a part of history. As an onlooker, you might have mistaken the huddles of people throughout the airport terminal for those attending a family reunion or state fair. I encountered dozens and dozens of folks who felt it was their duty to show their allegiance to our country and display the need to restore honor to America.

Apparently the event was history making, at least in the eyes of one of our nation's most esteemed national educational facilities: The Smithsonian Institution requested some memorabilia from the Glenn Beck team to be donated to the museum, presumably for them to erect an exhibit on the event sometime in the future. Congrats to Mr. Beck and his entire team. However, I worry about whether the Smithsonian will ever actually display an exhibit talking about the "Restoring Honor" event.

Remember that big omnibus appropriations bill that Congress has to pass in the upcoming weeks? One of the 12 bills contained in that omnibus bill is the interior appropriations bill. This bill funds of all things, the Smithsonian Institution.

I have heard that members of the Democratic Party would like to silence the likes of Mr. Beck and many of the conservative talk-show hosts and pundits. If this is true, then they could sneak into this omnibus bill a provision that would prohibit the Smithsonian from erecting an exhibit about the "Restoring Honor" rally.

However, don't expect those words to be included in the bill in such an open way. Remember when the Senate was debating the health care bill this past February? They needed to secure the vote of the Democratic senator from Louisiana, Sen. Landrieu. In order to do so, they promised her some money for her state as a result of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. However, to find the language in the bill dealing with the funding was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The language contained in the health care bill never mentioned the state of Louisiana or Katrina. Section 2006 of the health care bill was entitled "SPECIAL ADJUSTMENT TO FMAP DETERMINATION FOR CERTAIN STATES RECOVERING FROM A MAJOR DISASTER" and contained 660 words carefully penned to describe a scenario that only fit the state of Louisiana.

If map coordinates show up in the interior appropriations portion of the omnibus appropriations bill that pinpoint the Lincoln Memorial on the date of Aug. 28,you can bet that the language will more than likely deal with the "Restoring Honor" rally and not funding for more landscaping around the reflecting pool.

Stay tuned to see if the omnibus appropriations bill making its way through Congress does, in fact, address the "Restoring Honor" rally.

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, four-times-elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. She is the founder of

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