Brian Mark Weber / December 20, 2019

Plenty of Bipartisanship on Debt Spending

Despite impeachment fever, Democrats and Republicans managed to agree on more debt.

This was a somber and serious week for the U.S. House of Representatives — a week in which the actions of Democrats and Republicans will affect the fate of our nation for years to come. Indeed, some sober-minded analysts claim we may never recover from the votes cast this week in the lower chamber.

But this has nothing to do with the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.

While our country was focused on the impeachment farce, few Americans noticed that just the day before the House vote both Democrats and Republicans worked in bipartisan fashion to pass a $1.4 trillion spending package that then sailed through the Senate Thursday before being signed by the president.

Impeachment is serious business, of course, but President Trump’s acquittal in the Senate is a foregone conclusion — if the House ever does its duty and sends impeachment articles to the upper chamber. What’s far more troubling, though, is that no one in Congress from either party seems to care that our national debt is rocketing out of control.

One sensible Republican lawmaker, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, just couldn’t bring himself to vote for the massive spending bill even though he’s generally a supporter of the president.

As with most presidents, Trump’s excuse is that our national security is at stake. Rep. Roy certainly wants to fund the military, but he also wants some clarification on the Afghanistan mission to accompany the funding. Roy wrote on his Twitter account that “for this and other reasons I am a ‘no.’”

The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman argues that the real scandal in Trump’s presidency has nothing to do with Russia collusion or any of the other nonsense impeachment charges, but instead the reckless spending. “Dangerous” is the term he uses to describe the president’s “willingness to spend taxpayer dollars just as promiscuously as the regular politicians.”

While it’s true that Trump never focused on fiscal conservatism during his 2016 campaign, the fact that a businessman-turned-politician can’t sign a responsible budget is a legitimate concern. The editors at National Review note, “In the private sector, Donald Trump famously called himself the ‘king of debt.’ With the spending deal negotiated by his administration with Congress, he is carrying that title over into government work. The $1.4 trillion spending deal reflects a number of left-wing priorities, such as funding gun-control activism that is masquerading as research.”

They add, “The president likes to boast about his skill as a negotiator, which is, in this instance, nowhere to be seen. The president enjoys mean-mugging on Twitter, but in the real world, he’s willing to sign off on $1.4 trillion for lopsidedly Democratic priorities in order to avoid a confrontation with Nancy Pelosi.”

One of the more problematic provisions in the bill is a seven-year extension of the Export-Import Bank.

“Both Republican and Democratic establishment leaders know that if the Export-Import Bank were properly debated and scrutinized, few voters would actually support reauthorizing it,” writes the Washington Examiner’s Brad Polumbo. “It exists to hand out taxpayer money to foreign governments and U.S. companies in the hope that they’ll buy more American goods and services, usually from Boeing.”

None of this should be a surprise.

Daniel Horowitz writes at Conservative Review, “It’s become an annual ritual before Christmas. Both parties, despite the fake wrestling of soap opera politics, come together to increase spending and add special interest policy riders into a 2,000-page omnibus bill dropped hours before a vote is conducted, while nothing in the bill addresses the core challenges of our time that matter most to the citizenry. This occurs whether Republicans control one, two, or all three branches of the legislative process.”

By signing this sorry spending package, President Trump has violated his 2018 pledge to never again approve such a rushed and overloaded omnibus bill. In addition, he sacrificed any political leverage he could have enjoyed for the rest of his first term. Trump should have vetoed this bill, forcing both parties to engage in a national debate over spending, and making this a core issue during the 2020 presidential campaign.

But beyond the obvious fiscal imperative, why did Trump hand Nancy Pelosi and her ilk such an easy victory at the very moment they’ve impeached him? As our country’s debt soars past $23 trillion, Trump ought to get serious about the issue of federal spending. If not, he has no business talking about draining the swamp.

(Updated after Trump signed the budget legislation Friday.)

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