The Establishment Republican Spending Epidemic
The latest budget resolution resembles something Democrats would have been happy to send to Barack Obama.
Congressional negotiators in Washington reached a deal to fund the federal government through September, and it must pass by Friday to prevent a shutdown. Not that it’s surprising, but the spending bill is not at all conservative — in fact it resembles something Democrats would have sent to Barack Obama, who would have been delighted to sign it. To be sure, this spending bill is causing grassroots conservatives to wonder what it’s going to take to win real spending reform in the swamp.
Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi hailed the bill as a victory for Democrats. “Overwhelmingly, we were very pleased with the outcome — issue after issue,” boasted Schumer during his victory lap. “I would not say there’s a major loss in here.” And he has a legitimate point.
The legislation does not provide any further funding for a border fence along our southern border with Mexico. It does not eliminate money from “sanctuary cities” that fail to comply with federal immigration law. It does not cut funding at all for Planned Parenthood’s abortion mills. In addition, the deal cuts only 1% of the EPA’s budget and actually increases clean energy and science funding for the agency.
Sure, Republicans were able to increase defense spending by $15 billion, but Donald Trump had requested $30 billion. Republicans were also able to squeeze in $1.5 billion in funding for border security, yet none of that funding is usable for building a border fence or adding additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
In fact, Democrats claim that they were able to force Republicans to remove 160 riders, or policy measures, that Democrats considered “poison pills.” Republicans, in their all too familiar fashion, caved on pretty much everything over fear of a government shutdown. No wonder Democrats crowed that they’ll be able to block Trump’s legislative priorities in the future.
Nevertheless, on Monday, Trump declared, “We’re very happy with it,” adding that he would sign the bill if it remains “as we discussed.” What happened to Trump the Best Negotiator™ that we heard about during his campaign? Is this spending agreement really the best possible deal? A $1.1 trillion omnibus bill that maintains the status quo is certainly not what we would call sound fiscal policy, nor is it draining the swamp.
Maybe Trump really did get tired of all the winning.
So what happened? ObamaCare repeal failed. What does this spending bill do about ObamaCare? The White House agreed last week to continue paying out subsidies, which will go to insurance companies with the intent of reducing out of pocket expenses for low-income earners under the grossly misnamed “Affordable” Care Act.
Herein is one of the problems endemic with establishment Republicans in Congress. They had an opportunity to do something with ObamaCare but didn’t. Could it be that there are plenty of so-called moderate Republicans in Congress who actually like ObamaCare and don’t intend to do much about it? Based on their actions, it’s a strong possibility.
The ObamaCare-repeal wreckage caused an unnecessary pile-up of legislation — including priorities like the budget and tax reform that were dependent on health care reform — and Republicans feel they must give Democrats everything they want in order to avoid further embarrassment.
Which brings us to another problem. Trump has promised to “drain the swamp” and he’s certainly undoing a lot of Obama’s executive overreach, but he isn’t ideologically committed to cutting the size and scope of the federal government. He just doesn’t ever seem to care about actual policy. He also promises to spend a whole lot of money and to never touch the real debt drivers — entitlements. And as for draining the swamp, surely he knew that entrenched Democrats and Republicans alike would fight back. There are too many career politicians and lobbyists from both parties who will never willingly relinquish their power and influence.
So what next? Trump and Republicans in Congress need to establish a pattern of small victories — small victories toward repealing ObamaCare, small victories on budget and tax reform, small victories on immigration policy. Major battles and major policy changes aren’t as likely unless some small battles and small policy changes happen first. Trump always liked promising that things would happen “so fast.” But in politics, changes in policy and major reform rarely happen fast.
There is, of course, still time for the negotiator in chief and Congress to accomplish things like ObamaCare repeal and tax reform. Then they can come back to the budget in September fresh off real legislative victories. But let’s be honest: Their track record is not encouraging.