It’s become a ritual every December since Republicans took control of Congress. Leadership uses the desire of members to adjourn for the Christmas/New Year’s recess to jam through a budget bill that funds all the liberal demands and ignores conservative priorities. Worse, the threat of a government shutdown right before Christmas renders the budget bill a “must pass” item, enabling the political class to tack on all sorts of odious provisions to form one giant legislative lump of coal as an end-of-year gift to the voters. Sadly, this year is no different.
Unfortunately, the tax cuts are almost all we will get from this GOP Congress for the entire year. Rather than using the momentum to cut spending and prioritize conservative policies in the budget, Republicans are planning the worst possible budget scenario. With appropriations slated to lapse this Friday night, they have introduced a continuing resolution to fund the government from December 8 through December 22. Worse, they have tacked on a back-door extension of CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) through the end of the year, which is completely superfluous now that they are keeping Obamacare. December 22 is in the kill zone for conservatives because such an expiration date will be used as leverage to tack on an insurance bailout and God knows what else in the clamor to head home for the holidays. Conservatives must make this a non-starter.
It is quite evident that leadership has no plans to pass a good long-term budget for FY 2018. The best we could hope for is to pass a clean continuing resolution (CR) into January, when we can fight for our priorities without the insurmountable pressure from the jet fumes of members’ Christmas flights. The pre-Christmas goal for conservatives is to sand firm and not be pushed backwards. In other words, no long-term budget, no extra programs tacked onto the bill, and no insurance bailout. The fear is that a two-week CR expiring right before Christmas will be used to pass an omnibus that includes all of the aforementioned problems.
Once conservatives successfully kick the fight down the road past the Christmas break, they must prioritize the following goals for the budget bill:
It’s truly sad that we are approaching the third budget deadline since Republicans assumed control of all levers of government and there is not a single major conservative victory to show for it. When Democrats controlled all of government in 2009, they got everything they wanted in the annual spending bill. Yet now, priorities such as defunding sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood aren’t even on the table. Regrettably, just keeping out any new funding for Obamacare would be a major victory for conservatives.
It is unconscionable at this point that Republicans would continue to hide behind the filibuster as an excuse for not passing even 30 percent of their priorities in the budget. The “we don’t have 60 votes” excuse is ludicrous, because Democrats certainly don’t have 60 votes; nor do they have the Senate or the White House. I don’t remember Republicans ever having leverage to threaten a shutdown over their priorities when they were a minority in the Senate during Obama’s first term.
Moreover, we’ve reached the point where it’s time to curtail the filibuster for budget bills or force Democrats to maintain a consistent talking filibuster rather than this nonsense of a virtual filibuster. Enough excuses.
It’s a real shame Republicans refuse to cut spending, because the final version of the tax bill is actually a significant tax cut for most families and is worth passing. Yet the bill is getting a bad rap because of the deficit. With the budget bill, Republicans have an opportunity to fix this problem. But the fact that they are supporting an insurance bailout and a CHIP reauthorization on top of Obamacare subsidies and Medicaid expansion demonstrates that there is not a single area of government they won’t grow, never mind cutting.
If conservatives are really committed to ensuring Christmas doesn’t come early for liberals and special interests, they should force a clean funding bill into the new year.
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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.