Petty maneuvering delaying budget for fiscal year

If your family or business operated this way it would soon be shunned by creditors and suppliers. But the U.S. government operated without a budget for this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, until now, thanks to petty and sometimes incompetent maneuvering.

But this institution that can’t keep its own house in order has no qualms about passing rules to keep other sectors of society in line.

The federal budget is supposed to consist of 13 separate appropriations, all passed before Oct. 1. But Congress has been busy passing futile resolutions that won’t change the administration’s course in Iraq, and this administration doesn’t know how to negotiate except through the threat of a veto. So it’s taken them a while to get it together.

Because they all want to get home for the holidays, instead of considering governmental departments separately, they threw everything except defense into one $516 billion “omnibus” spending bill.

It includes $31 billion for fighting in Afghanistan but none for Iraq. The Senate is supposed to add another $40 billion for a few more months in Iraq.

By calling predictable funding for border security, veterans care and even security for political conventions “emergencies,” the House managed to spend $11 billion more than the White House wanted.

But since it wasn’t the $22 billion extra that congressional Democrats originally wanted, President Bush has given it lukewarm approval — stymieing congressional Republicans who thought the administration wanted them to go to the mattresses on this one.

The Democrats had promised that “earmarks” — pet projects inserted at the behest of a single member without hearings or other deliberations — would be reduced by 50 percent.

Citizens Against Government Waste, however, counted 11,043 earmarks in this year’s budget, compared with 9,963 in the fiscal 2006 budget. Total earmark spending, however, was down.

More shenanigans are in store. After the Senate adds money for the Iraq war, many of the Democrats who supported the bill Monday will vote against it.

Eventually, however, the government will have a budget of sorts.

Hurrah.