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27 Years


27 years - Just over a quarter century. In that time, we've had both Democrats and Republicans in charge of the U.S. Congress, and while they may not agree on much, the have at least one thing in common:

Congress Hasn't Passed a Budget on Time in 27 Years

In the final weeks of 2022, just days before they broke for Christmas, members of Congress came together at the last moment for a familiar holiday ritual. For one week a year, they kind of, sort of do their job.

That job includes authoring, debating, and passing a budget for the astounding amount of discretionary federal spending that Congress is charged with managing each year—in this case, about $1.7 trillion.

To avert a partial government shutdown, the spending bill was supposed to be passed by Friday, December 16. But on Thursday, December 15, with just a day left before the dreaded quasi-shutdown, Congress approved a one-week extension. "This is about taking a very simple, exceedingly responsible step to ensure we finish the year without hiccups and with minimal drama," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.).

At that point, no actual bill had been made public, meaning most lawmakers outside of leadership had little clarity about what was in it. The one-week extension resembled a last-minute reprieve for a college student who pleads for extra time to polish a major end-of-semester paper, of which not one word has actually been written.

As the following week began, it became clear that the bill was still very much a hypothetical construct, as much imagination as legislation. Reports in the morning papers indicated that the bill might or might not contain provisions related to airplane safety, a fresh extension of the child tax credit that had expired the previous year, changes to corporate tax policy, state conservation grants, money for military aid to Ukraine, and reforms designed to prevent the sort of electoral certification confusion that followed the 2020 presidential election. Also, $1.7 trillion in other spending, give or take.

That was Monday. The bill had to be passed before the end of the week so Congress could break for Christmas. But no text was available for inspection by the public, the press, or even most lawmakers.

The handful of party leaders and committee chairs tasked with negotiating the bill's details promised that the full text would be available that evening. But as the dinner hour came and went on Monday, reports indicated that it would be delayed.

"The chief holdup," according to Roll Call, "appeared to be language Democrats were trying to negotiate regarding the FBI's headquarters relocation project." Would the FBI be moved to Virginia? Or would it be relocated to Maryland? With just days to go before the deadline, that was Congress' $1.7 trillion question.

By Tuesday morning, the text had finally been released. It was 4,155 pages long. The Senate planned to vote on the measure that Thursday, the House shortly afterward.

Again, it was 4,155 pages long.

What was in the bill? Among other things, there was $200 million for the Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund and $7.5 million for studying "the domestic radicalization phenomenon." There was $750,000 for the Metropolitan Opera in New York to modernize its fire alarms. There was $410 million for border security in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman. Americans got $3 million for bee-friendly highways. The word salmon appeared 48 times.

Complete text: Congress Hasn't Passed a Budget on Time in 27 Years (

Your tax dollars at work, etc.