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Considering a CR: The worst option to fund DHS

A story in Politico today reports on the prospects of Congress passing a continuing resolution (“CR”) to fund the Department of Homeland Security, as a means to resolve the current impasse over passing DHS appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2015. But the story highlights the downsides of passing a CR:

But in reality, a continuing resolution is just about the worst way that Congress could solve the funding problem, short of actually shutting the department down.

The story also notes that Secretary Johnson has been making these arguments to Congress:

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has been warning Capitol Hill of the downsides of a continuing resolution, telling lawmakers that short-term funding won’t solve his problems. A continuing resolution wouldn’t include any of the money the department is supposed to get for new initiatives — it just keeps last year’s funding on autopilot.

I agree with these sentiments completely, and would argue that a vote for a CR (either short-term or long-term) is a vote for fiscal irresponsibility. As Sec. Johnson has noted, a CR fails to fund new priorities for DHS – which in many cases are the highest priority spending items for the Department. It continues to fund low-priority items that may otherwise have been cut or eliminated in a full-year appropriations bill. And it impairs the ability of Departmental managers to carry out their responsibilities in a way that is timely or cost effective. If any business had to operate under such a budget regimen, it would go bankrupt within weeks or months.

I am still holding out hope that Congress will pass a clean full-year appropriations bill for DHS when it returns next week, especially in light of yesterday’s court ruling. The Department of Homeland Security is too important to leave unfunded, and even a furlough of 15% of its staff will have a substantial impact on its operational effectiveness if the Department remains unfunded for more than a few days. But if Congress fails to reach a funding agreement and settles for a short-term or long-term CR, such legislation should not be seen as an adequate substitute to a full-year appropriations bill.