“The huge increase in the national debt demanded by and incurred during the current Administration has placed a significant burden on future generations. We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations.” ~GOP Platform, July 2016
Three years later and $2.6 trillion deeper into the red, will the last conservative in Washington turn out the lights?
Senate Republicans are now “praying” that President Trump accepts the “deal” they cut with House Democrats to destroy Trump’s presidency and any leverage he will ever have – not just on spending but on important policy issues, such as immigration and abortion funding. Now is the time for conservatives not just to pray but to demand that the president reject the deal and simply call for a continuing resolution to keep fighting for spending cuts and the proper policy riders in the fiscal year 2020 budget.
Thanks to the one policy success conservatives secured in the past decade, spending will automatically go down by $35 billion on October 1, when the budget caps kick in, and by another $89 billion on January 1, when sequestration takes effect. Yet from day one of budget negotiations, there was no disagreement between GOP leaders and Nancy Pelosi. They both agreed on unconditionally raising the debt ceiling for two years and busting the budget caps for not just this year but next year as well, for a total of over $300 billion in more spending.
We are now spending 18 percent more than in Obama’s final year and more than during the Great Recession, even though this is a time of economic prosperity. It’s a black mark and an embarrassment to this party. But rather than applying the brakes to the runaway train, they are seeking to disable the brakes. They believe that the debt limit, not the debt itself, is the problem.
And so they have agreed to an unconditional debt ceiling suspension for two years with absolutely no spending cuts. On top of that, they would bust the budget caps for the next two years over and beyond current levels, for a price tag that will likely be north of $300 billion.
Trump needs to announce that he will veto this bill. He needs to announce his red lines both on spending levels and border policy and that he will be willing to sign a clean continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government while debate continues but will not sign a long-term bill consigning his presidency to failure and our country to indebtedness to China. At least with a clean CR, current levels are maintained, and he always has the leverage looming over Democrats that once the short duration of the CR expires, the budget cuts automatically go into place. By immediately signing a long-term busting of the budget caps, however, he will not only lose the opportunity to cut spending, but will increase spending well above current levels.
This “deal” demonstrates that there is no daylight between the two parties on spending. Republicans have no desire to fight for defunding Planned Parenthood or securing the border in return for spending like socialists. Thus, they are fiscal, social, and national defense liberals.
By signing this deal, Trump will irrevocably put us on a trajectory of immutable indebtedness, where just the interest payments on the debt alone will surge higher than the cost of the runaway Medicaid program in a few years. As serious as the spending crisis was during Obama’s tenure, because interest rates were so low, interest payments remained stagnant. This is an entirely new ballgame today and is holding us back from what should be 4-5 percent GDP growth.
Also, by singing this deal, he will give away his last remaining point of leverage on the border for the remainder of this term. As it stands now, Trump has the status quo of automatic budget caps on his side. Democrats are the ones who need a deal for a new law in order to secure their spending priorities. Trump merely has to allow the status quo to play out. This gives him leverage to demand more funding for ICE deportations, border enforcement, and the wall in return for more welfare spending.
The only thing worse than not fulfilling his campaign promises is for Trump to permanently give away his leverage so he can’t live on to fight another day. This was the big mistake in the February omnibus. Had he just demanded a clean CR, he would have had leverage over the Democrats, because the news of the border emergency reached a breaking point in early March when CBP announced the February border numbers. Remember, back then, Democrats were still saying that border numbers were at historic lows. Had Trump been working with a continuous government funding deadline coinciding with that news, he would have been able to batter them into submission. Instead, he signed a bill that made current border policy worse in several key ways.
In March 2018, after Trump reluctantly signed two consecutive budget bills increasing spending and jettisoning his immigration priorities, he promised he would “never again” sign bills like that. Instead, that is exactly what he has been convinced to do multiple times both by GOP congressional leaders and by swamp-dwellers in the administration. Now is quite literally his last chance to fulfill that promise.
In this case, “never again” requires nothing more than holding the line on the status quo. The veto pen is the single most powerful tool in government.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.