So much for the Trump plan to circumvent Democrats and cut spending.
Shortly after the Republican majority in Congress betrayed fiscal conservatism and President Donald Trump signed into law a $1.3 trillion increase in spending that funded Democratic priorities and did not fund conservative priorities, some still held out hope for spending cuts. Amid backlash from the conservative base, House Republicans talked up a plan to use an obscure budget law to pass a rescissions package that would cut non-defense spending by as much as $60 billion. The Trump administration signaled the president was on board, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., said he was open to a “discussion” on it.
While some conservatives got their hopes up, I raised a few points about why conservatives should be skeptical, namely:
First, while it’s likely a spending cuts package could pass through the House of Representatives, there is no guarantee that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can put all 51 votes in the Senate GOP conference together to move President Trump’s spending priorities through the Senate. When President Trump proposed a conservative budget last year, it was greeted as “dead on arrival” because RINO senators like Susan Collins, R-Maine, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., objected to cuts to their favorite pet programs. With just 49 voting Republicans against the 49 Democrats in the Senate because Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been absent due to illness and retiring Sen. Thad Cochran’s replacement has not been sworn in yet (that comes Monday), it only takes one liberal Republican to sink any spending cuts. There is more than one liberal Republican in the Senate.
Yesterday on Fox News, McConnell confirmed my skepticism by announcing the Senate would not bring a rescissions package to a floor vote.
“You can’t make an agreement one month and say, ‘OK, we really didn’t mean it,'” McConnell told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto in an exclusive interview. He reminded Cavuto that President Trump agreed to the spending deal McConnell forged with Democrats.
“He agreed to it. He was involved in the negotiation and signed the bill,” McConnell said. “We had a deal with the Democrats.”
Here’s what’s wrong with this — aside from the fact that McConnell is whiffing on a chance to cut as much as $60 billion in spending. The argument leadership made to conservatives about the omnibus spending bill and why Republicans had to vote for it dealt with the 60-vote threshold. Without 60 votes in the Senate, conservatives are constantly told, McConnell’s Republicans just can’t override a Democrat filibuster. Leadership argued the military badly needed these spending increases and that we couldn’t risk the Democrats shutting down the government and holding the military hostage by insisting on cuts to non-defense spending. So that’s why Republicans were “forced” to swallow a $1.3 trillion increase in spending.
Well, this argument doesn’t apply to a rescissions package. The money for the military has already been appropriated, so a $60 billion spending cut to non-defense spending doesn’t affect the troops, obviously. Further, these spending cuts would be brought up using a “privileged resolution” in the Senate, permitting Republicans to pass the cuts with a simple majority, the 51 votes they do have. That’s why President Trump’s White House and House Republicans were ready to move forward with this plan.
So with the big obstacles to cutting government spending out of the way, what’s the problem?
The problem is McConnell. The problem is McConnell doesn’t want to cut spending. The problem is McConnell wants to shield big-government Republicans from taking a tough vote. The problem is McConnell keeps supporting big-government Republicans in primaries over conservative candidates because they’ll vote for him as leader. The problem is McConnell would rather keep his “deal” with the Democrats — the very same Democrats who are historically obstructing the business of the Senate — than keep the fiscally conservative promises in the Republican Party platform.
And the problem is the Republican senators continue to give deference to a majority leader who is not a conservative.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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