If the November election was analogous to conservatives recovering possession of the ball, this pending budget bill is the moment the president throws an interception. Unless, of course, he does the right thing and vetoes it.
Not only does this bill fund liberal priorities, including refugee resettlement, Obama’s amnesty, and sanctuary cities, it contains a number of odious provisions that weaken current law on immigration. We have already observed how this bill essentially weakens Trump’s leverage to even commence construction on a border wall while funding border security in other countries. However, there are a number of additional provisions that violate the president’s core campaign promises as well.
While fully funding the refugee program and failing to codify Trump’s executive order against judicial tyranny, this bill actually increases immigration from the Middle East. Sec. 7083 (p. 1447) increases the number of Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for Afghanis by 2,500 – from 8,500 to 11,000. As we’ve written before, this has been a priority of liberal Republicans and Democrat in the Senate, even though we’ve had vetting problems with the families of interpreters and contractors. Remember, the Bowling Green bomb-plotters were Iraqi SIVs who were caught trying to blow up the soldiers they worked for.
Congress already added an additional 3,000 visas for these individuals plus an unlimited number for family members in the FY 2016 NDAA. Most of those visas have not even been issued yet. So why would Congress open the floodgates for even more visas at a cost of several hundred million dollars? Remember, SIV recipients are treated like refugees and are immediately eligible for all social entitlement and resettlement programs. They are also permitted to bring in an unlimited number of spouses and children. In recent years, the program has been expanded for other support members beyond interpreters or those helping our soldiers on the front lines – and this program is in addition to a separate visa program specifically for interpreters. Moreover, after 15 years of failure in Afghanistan, we are fighting for a corrupt Sharia government. Now we have nothing to show for it but more immigrants who, by and large, are strict adherents to Sharia.
Moreover, with the endless flow of immigration from the Middle East, why wouldn’t they at least cut other areas of immigration, such as the Syrian refugees who are arriving in the hundreds every month? Since Trump is apparently refusing to use the budget to codify his order for a moratorium from the Middle East, is it too much to ask that he not increase immigration?
One of the cornerstones of interior enforcement is the 287g program, which allows federal immigration officials to work with local law enforcement to apprehend illegal aliens. Obama terminated the program as part of his illegal amnesty, but Trump reinstated it by executive order. Sec. 210 (p. 684) of the omnibus prohibits these agreements if the DHS Inspector General determines that the terms of the agreement governing the delegation of authority have been “materially violated.” This provision was clearly inserted by Democrats who feel there might be an avenue through which they can get the IG to throw cold water on this vital program.
Section 7081 (p. 1443) of the omnibus essentially creates a slush fund for the Bureau of Consular Affairs within the State Department to use the fees it collects from visas as a permanent funding source from year to year.
While a number of agencies are somewhat “self-funded” by their own administration of fees, those funds are either deposited directly into the general treasury or are credited against the amount of appropriations they receive. For example, if an agency receives $50 million in appropriations but collects $20 million in fees, it can only draw $30 million from the Treasury. Moreover, it can’t use the funds from year to year. This is necessary so that agencies are fully controlled by Congress for every fiscal year rather than becoming rogue entities that self-fund outside Article I powers.
This bill, on the other hand, gives the State Department a full slush fund, in addition to appropriations, from which the funds can be transferred for other purposes.
In a normal administration, one would assume that the White House would control the direction of the agencies. But we have already seen that the White House is either unwilling or unable to stop the State Department from bringing in 900 refugees a week (which is not even required by the lawless courts). Clearly, the same personnel from Obama’s administration remain in place. Thanks to this provision in the omnibus, there will be a new revenue incentive for the agency to bring in as many visas as possible and use the extra funds to push the limits on refugee resettlement and other visa categories.
Thus, at the same time Congress is rescinding funds for the border wall, it is offering an extra slush fund with more flexibility to bring in even more refugees. This bill contains several other provisions that direct policy, even though it’s a spending bill — but not any conservative priorities.
Amazingly, OMB director Mick Mulvaney praised the budget and excused the problems by asking rhetorically, “Can you imagine how different this bill is from what the bill that President Obama would have signed back in September?”
This is part of a disturbing trend I’m noticing among some conservatives, in which they have such low expectations for success that they excuse away every act of political adultery by Trump and congressional Republicans by comparing it to what we would have gotten with Obama or Hillary. There is no sense of context, proportionality, and expectations in these excuses. (See my full podcast on realistic expectations vs. absurd excuses). Taking this reasoning to its logical conclusion, one could excuse away a Republican issuing amnesty by suggesting the Democrat would have amnestied more illegals. Or “at least the Republican president only appointed five Kerry people to foreign policy positions as opposed to 10.”
The reality is there is no need or excuse for any of this. We are not asking the president to balance the budget or reform entitlements in 100 days. We are asking him merely not to pursue some of the most egregious and downright illegal policies of the Obama administration. The Iran deal, defending the contraception mandate in court, issuing Obama’s amnesty, and bailing out insurers are all illegal policies that can be terminated … simply by doing nothing. To actively continue and even champion those policies is an act of political adultery that shouting “Gorsuch!” or “Keystone pipeline!” fails to ameliorate. To sign a budget bill codifying these priorities while he fails to demand that Congress address his priorities that have been illegally assailed by the courts casts doubt on his campaign promises.
Amazingly, as it relates to the budget, there is not much room even to use “but Obama would have been worse” as an excuse. It’s hard to see how the bill would have been significantly worse had Democrats won the election.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 1, 2017
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.