Graves links budget impasse, federal deficits

Posted: Aug. 29, 2013 6:42 pm Updated: Sep. 12, 2013 8:15 pm

By DOUG WILSONHerald-Whig Senior Writer

CANTON, Mo. -- U.S. Rep. Sam Graves expects that continuing resolutions will be passed by the Senate next month creating "a budget with no parameters."

During a town-hall style meeting at Ursa Farmers Coop on Thursday afternoon, Graves told constituents how federal deficits have ballooned in the years since the Senate passed a true budget. Since 2009 every deficit has exceeded $1 trillion, Graves said.

The Congressional Budget Office reports that the deficit should be $845 billion in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

"We don't have a revenue problem. It's a spending problem," Graves said.

"How would you like to operate this business without a budget?" Graves asked the Ursa Farmers Coop managers.

Continuing resolutions rely on lump sum funding that goes to agencies. Line item oversight is not possible.

Graves said use of continuing resolutions is a strategy used by the Senate's Democratic leaders to avoid conference committee negotiations with Republicans who hold a majority in the House.

Graves expressed other concerns about recent practices in Congress.

"I am very much in favor of earmark reform, but not a total ban on earmarks. All that does is tie our hands," Graves said.

He explained that the ban on earmarks has stalled the Federal Highway Bill and funding for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

"We don't know how you pass a project bill that doesn't have any projects in it," Graves said.

When the last Federal Highway Bill was approved, each member of Congress had funds they could direct to needed transportation projects. Lawmakers usually coordinated with regional planning officials and other stakeholders to select those priorities.

Under the no-earmarks plan, Graves said lump-sum funding of state transportation agencies would be required. Members of Congress could not make suggestions on projects, but he believes the White House could. Graves points to WRDA-funded projects as proof. He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to do some big environmental projects by the Obama administration, but work on levees and locks and dams has languished.

Graves said he does not believe that President Obama has the authority to make a military strike on Syria. He believes Obama needs to meet with Congress. Administration officials deny that Congress needs to be consulted.

"I need a lot more information before I could make a decision," Graves said.

He worries about whether the opposition to Syria's current regime would be any better.

Graves also reminded constituents that the U.S. Farm Bill will come up next month.

"About 80 percent of that bill is the food stamp program and WIC. The other 20 percent is farm programs," Graves said.

House Republicans passed a bill that dealt solely with farm programs after House Democrats refused to vote for any cuts to food stamps. The Senate has passed its version of the bill that deals with both food and agriculture programs.

"I hope we can work out a compromise by Sept. 30. In fact work on that is going on now," Graves said.