An End to Budget Fatigue?

J Main/

When the Senate takes up the budget agreement this week, it will bring more than just fiscal relief.

For lawmakers, it will end four years of operating without a budget and bouncing from crisis to crisis, topped by a government shutdown that forced many to trim staff. Call it budget fatigue.

"That's a good way of putting it," says Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.

The constant fiscal battles of recent years sucked up bandwidth in Congress. They landed lawmakers in fights that could not be won, tainting the politics and eclipsing other important issues. The lopsided and bipartisan passage of what is universally referred to as a small budget deal in the House on Thursday shows how eager some lawmakers are to move on.

"They are looking forward to doing the things we want to do instead of fighting over shutdowns all the time," said Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan last week. "We're just happy that we're getting this place working again."

Of course, the compromise agreement, in bill form that is expected to pass in the Senate this week--a cloture vote is expected on Tuesday--is nobody's version of perfect. 

And still to be worked out are appropriations bills showing how spending will be parsed for this fiscal year and next. The bills should be passed by Jan. 15, when the current spending mechanism for government expires—and those could cause battles of their own.

In addition, the debt-ceiling suspension runs out Feb. 7, potentially sparking renewed fighting over government borrowing, although the Congressional Budget Office says various cash-management strategies at the Treasury Department could push the prospect of default into March or later.

But for now, Congress is venturing into harmonic territory that it has not walked for some time.

Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., says that budget weariness is real, but adds that it extends to the American public. "I think there's a little fatigue on their part from all of this mess," he said.

Rep. Tom Price, the No. 2 Republican after Ryan on the Budget Committee, agrees that much of the country is tired.

"When I'm home, what I hear from folks is we've got to get something done," he said. "The uncertainty that is out there, the frustration that people have is real. That is translated to us as well. We can't continue to lurch from crisis to crisis to crisis and expect any wise decisions are going to come out of it."

He added: "I think this relieves a lot of pressure. I think it lowers the temperature, and hopefully makes it so we can get some real things done on the policy side."

Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican, calls the constant budget and fiscal turmoil "a drag."

Thompson said the long string of temporary, stop-gap budget measures in lieu of real deals has hindered legislative work to solve other problems lawmakers need to address. "I have nothing good to say about continuing resolutions. That's not only a drag. That's a nightmare," he said. "This puts us back into regular order and for a two-year process. It's pretty exciting from my perspective. And we didn't raise taxes to do it."

Still, for some, there will be lingering resentment and budget-war wounds.

"The reality is, we're a little over $17 trillion in debt—and if we continue on that path, it will harm this country in the way no military power has ever been able to do," said Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican. "Consequently, those of us concerned about that grow a little weary of our friends on the left being unable to see the train that is coming at all of us.

"And we are the ones portrayed as the bad guys," he said.

But Hastings is optimistic that a new era of bipartisan budget cooperation has dawned. "My hope is this is just the beginning," he said.

Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, says that what lawmakers are feeling isn't just budget-battle fatigue.

"I think that understates it. This is something else. This is maybe a recognition that we've gone too far in our constant fighting," he said. "We can't go home and play the same old song."

As he put it, "Even we are tired of it."

(Image via J Main/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.