“We’re fighting for the budget. I believe that we can pass 12 appropriations bills, and that’s what we should do.” Republican Congressman Andy Ogles, who represents Tennessee’s 5th congressional district, is passionate about efforts by a seeming minority of the House Republican Caucus to bring back normal order to the federal government’s budgeting process. He made that crystal clear in an interview with me on Thursday.
“Keep in mind, all 50 states have a budget that they passed,” he says. “When you go back to what’s called ‘regular order,’ where you’re passing single-subject appropriations bills, the last time congress did that was 1997.” Since that time, an increasingly divided and contentious congress has kept the government funded either in part or in whole with enormous, multi-trillion-dollar continuing resolutions that have served the Democratic Party’s goals to grossly inflate the scope and scale of the federal budget over time.
What this process also does, though, is rob Congress of much of its leverage in its oversight function.
Republican committee chairs like James Comer (R-KY) at House Oversight, Kay Granger (R-TX) at House Appropriations, Jodey Arrington (R-TX) at House Budget and Jim Jordan (R-OH) at House Judiciary can call Biden appointees like Merrick Garland, Jennifer Granholm, Deb Haaland and Pete Buttigieg up to testify at hearings all they like as part of their oversight function, which they frequently do. But if they lack real budgetary authority backed by single-subject appropriations bills, congress’s lack of any enforcement authority renders the hearings largely toothless.
In the past, congressional committees could influence executive branch behaviors by invoking credible threats to withhold funding for specific policy actions deemed to be contrary to laws enacted by Congress. But the quarter-century-long failure by Congress to enact real appropriations bills means any such threats today are devoid of meaning. The result since 1997 has been the rise of an essentially imperial presidency, under which the country is governed more often by executive edicts than through the legislative processes envisioned in the Constitution.
Ogles, a fierce advocate for U.S. energy security, knows the dangers this surrender of congressional authority presents in the energy space. In our interview, he referred specifically to efforts by the Securities and Exchange Commission to implement onerous new ESG-focused reporting requirements. “We just had (SEC Chairman Gary) Gensler in our committee,” he says. “I pushed him on that ESG question, but it’s very much agenda-driven in this administration. How about we get back to capitalism? How about how about we get back to the free market?”
One of his big concerns is that, in pursuing its radical energy agenda, the executive branch is usurping congressional authority. “You have a lot of agencies, whether it’s the SEC, the EPA, or others, that create these rules that directly impact industry. What happens is by making a new rule or reinterpreting an old rule, they’re essentially legislating. And that’s not their job. That’s Congress’s job. It’s our job.”
Ogles and his fellow colleagues fighting to restore normal order in the budgeting process point out that the administration’s continuing efforts to hamstring the domestic oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries are destroying economic growth. That, in turn, has helped to cause the explosion in the national debt during this presidency. ‘’When you have $33 trillion worth of debt, we can’t cut our way out of this mess,” Ogles points out. “You do that by growing the economy, and the number one way to grow the economy is to become energy independent again, to acknowledge the fact that the future of energy in this country is coal, it is oil and gas, and even nuclear.”
As of this writing, it seems likely the congressional impasse over the restoration of normal budgeting order will result in a partial government shutdown for some period of time. If that happens, it is important for the public to understand that the nation’s future energy security is one of the major drivers of the debate. Ogles is doing his best to spread that message.
David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
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