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Michael Swartz / Mar. 23, 2018

Six Months Late, Congress Passes Spendthrift Omnibus

“For perspective, until 1991, the entire budget of the federal government for the whole year was less than $1.3 trillion.”

Working to avoid the prospect of a third government shutdown this fiscal year, the House on Thursday passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill by a 256-167 vote. The Senate followed suit late Thursday night, 65-32. And yes, this bill covers only the remaining half of this fiscal year.

“For perspective,” notes Investor’s Business Daily, “until 1991, the entire budget of the federal government for the whole year was less than $1.3 trillion.”

While a majority of both Republicans and Democrats favored the bill, there was significant opposition from both parties for two vastly different reasons — in particular, progressive Democrats were rankled by the failure to address so-called “Dreamers” in this omnibus, while the GOP’s Freedom Caucus rightly complained about spending too much. Yet the centrists and the establishment prevailed, as their alacrity was further aided by the desire of some members to beat it out of town for junkets or to attend the Friday funeral of the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

If haste makes waste, though, there’s a lot of both in this 2,232-page behemoth — a measure Fox News host Laura Ingraham described as a “business-as-usual spend-o-rama.”

Proponents, however, are quick to point out that the omnibus will continue increasing the defense budget and provide $4 billion in funding to combat the opioid crisis. And (as we place our tongues firmly in our cheeks) there’s more good news: It took President Donald Trump twice as long to rack up his first trillion in deficit spending as it did his predecessor. That’s awfully weak sauce, though, as there’s much more in this massive well of red ink that promises a trillion-dollar annual shortfall not to like.

Then again, he tweeted Friday morning, “I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded.”

A number of items that majority Republicans have been running on and promising to do for years have been effectively crushed, along with any heretofore surviving GOP fiscal hawks, under the wheels of the omnibus. For example, the long-sought border wall for which President Trump sought $25 billion will get a paltry $1.6 billion — and only a portion of that will construct a physical fenced barrier. In fact, the government will spend only $100 million more on border fencing than it will for a railway tunnel that connects New York and New Jersey. And to think we’ve been told Mr. Trump is a tough negotiator.

Moreover, we can look forward to a fully funded Planned Parenthood ($500 million a year) that receives only about $150 million fewer of our tax dollars than the border wall, er, fence. Your government at work.

Even in the rare cases when the administration wants to spend less, Congress is only too happy to give them more. For example, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had been thoughtfully pruning programs she thought unworthy of continued funding, but these provisions were funded anyway. DeVos simply hasn’t learned her lesson, said one senator. “After more than a year on the job, I would have hoped Secretary DeVos would have learned by now that her extreme ideas to privatize our nation’s public schools and dismantle the Department of Education do not have support among parents or in Congress,” lectured Democrat Sen. Patty Murray, “but unfortunately that does not seem to be the case.” (These ideas certainly have support in our humble shop, though. Perhaps Murray would enlighten us as to the article and section of our Constitution that enumerates the federal government’s power over education?)

But Murray wasn’t finished needling DeVos and other proponents of fiscal sanity. “I’m proud to have worked with Republicans in Congress to flatly reject these ideas,” she added, “and increase funding for programs Secretary DeVos tried to cut.”

Those who take seriously the concepts of limited government and fiscal responsibility were hoping against hope that a principled senator or two — perhaps Rand Paul (R-KY) or Mike Lee (R-UT) — might throw a wrench into the gears once again. They did try. But such a bold and courageous move might leave us at risk of another government shutdown, a prospect most other Republicans dread like Dracula fears sunlight.

Thus, our nation’s near-term financial fate, and its long-term solvency, inch ever closer to the abyss.

National Review’s editors may have said it best: “What might turn out to be the signature achievement of unified Republican government this year is the sort of legislation that would have been right at home in the Obama administration.”

Since we’ve tried pleading, cajoling and tossing out spendthrifts at the ballot box only to find the Swamp refilling itself a few months later, perhaps this radical idea makes sense: “I’d like to suggest in the strongest terms possible that you pray for those in government at all levels,” writes Heidi Munson at The Resurgent. Indeed, nothing else has worked, and this deal only covers the six months until the next government fiscal year begins. At which time this circus starts anew.

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