How The Government Pays Its Bills | Ron’s Office Hours | NPR


Hi, I’m Ron Elving and welcome to my office
hours. So, to put it the way Jerry Seinfeld might
ask it: What’s the deal with the number 12? We’ve got 12 days of Christmas; we’ve got
the Twelve Apostles. Go back further, you’ve got the 12 tribes
of Israel. And when Congress wants to spend money, they
deal with the number 12, too. Let me give you a little explanation. The most important thing the Constitution
gives Congress to do every single year is spend money. And when they do that, they use the number 12. Here, let me tell you what the Constitution
says exactly; it says, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but by consequence
of appropriations made by law.” So, literally it takes an act of Congress
for someone to tap into the Treasury for all that money the government spends. Now, some of it is done pretty much automatically,
it’s not redone every year. You’ve got the debt service; you’ve got Social
Security and things of that nature. But about half the money the federal government
lays out every year, whether it’s for paper clips or nuclear
weapons or salaries or jet fighters; all of that has to be appropriated by Congress, and
it does it through a process called the appropriations process. It’s built around 12 bills. Now it all gets done in some of the fanciest
digs in the entire Capitol, the appropriations committee rooms. And in these ornate chambers, the appropriations
committees are pretty much sacrosanct. They take some guidance from here and there,
but their chairmen are very powerful people. That power is broken down into subcommittees. Each one with its own powerful chairman. Each one with its own specific responsibilities:
national defense, homeland security, other things sometimes combined together. And each one of those subcommittees produces
a bill each year, in the House and in the Senate, and then those become 12 spending
bills passed by both the House and the Senate. Ideally, Congress likes to pass each of those
12 big spending bills individually. But sometimes that doesn’t work or they don’t
have the votes for them or time is short before the end of the fiscal year. And then we get these enormous combination
plates of many of the bills, all the ones that haven’t been passed at a given moment,
and those are called omnibus appropriations. And if they’ve got just two or three that
they’re ready to put through but they aren’t ready for the rest, they might send those
through on what’s been called a minibus. Now minibus is a cute name, but there’s nothing
cute about what happens if these bills do not get passed by the end of the fiscal year,
that’s Sept. 30. Without these bills, the federal government
shuts down, in whole or in part. We saw that as recently as 2013; we saw it
for longer periods in 1995 and in 1996. And even when they all do get done and the
government doesn’t shut down, there’s a great deal of pressure to get this done so it won’t
shut down, and that drives all the other business off the floor of the House and the Senate. That happens more often than not in the month
of September, and 2017 looks like the latest year to give us an example. I’m Ron Elving at NPR. Thank you for coming to my office hours.

Maurice Vega

12 Responses

  1. Ah, is that why they would have had to rush ACA repeal to get it done, because otherwise it wouldn't get done before it would have to be dropped to make way for all the appropriations bills?

  2. Uh ,
    All that and nothing about how it actually pays it's bill's .
    Video Summery :
    " Congress wave's a gavel and when the Law passes that's when the magic happens. "

    Passing A Law and actually paying the Bills is the Difference between A King saying his money is good and it actually being good . Everyone knows that his money is no good except for the King , who is happy to sign an Spending agreement that declares itself a Budget and claims that it pays all of the Bills .
    Will the Bills actually be paid ?
    If Kings coin is as good as his Word , No .

  3. They appropriate themselves pretty well too. Like lords or aristocrats. And We the peons , the beggars asking for and getting crumbs. I don't want to give my money to them and they give it back to me at a fraction along with others money. Talk about a ponzi scam. How does that work. We all give them a percentage of our work, our time, aka our earned money they take their cut and what we are gonna get a big return our homage. Riiggghttt… Govrrnment is not wise investment. Less you apart or running it. Who is serving who?

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