Leave it to the intellectually dishonest knuckleheads in the Senate to find innovative ways to leave no spending increase behind.
After the president signed the March omnibus bill, he at least made an effort to save a small amount of extra spending through a procedure that is not subject to the filibuster. The Trump administration proposed a tiny $15 billion “rescissions” package to claw back authority for spending on programs that were completely unnecessary or funds that wouldn’t be spent. Among the provisions was $7 billion in CHIP funding that would not or could not be spent for that fiscal year.
Essentially, this was a package to make legislators feel good about themselves and show they were cutting spending, even though they were not really cutting anything. Yet the Senate, including many Republicans, still balked at the bill. Why? As Deputy OMB Director Russ Vought predicted, “At some point Congress will likely ‘rescind’ those funds as a budget gimmick to offset new spending elsewhere, as it did on the recently passed omnibus.” Legislators knew darn well this money would not be spent and represented phony savings, yet they wanted to keep the funding on the books so they could double-dip and “offset” future spending increases. Passing the administration’s rescissions package would have prevented that.
To that end, Democrats in Congress accused Trump of taking medical care away from children. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., called it an “attack on American children and families.” Sen. Pat. Leahy said the rescissions package was “unconscionable” and an example of “cut first, ask questions later.” Even Sen. Lisa Murkowski said, “I don’t support any of this” before casting a vote for it. The Senate rejected it in June, after the House narrowly passed it.
Let’s put aside the fact that CHIP has record funding and that the entire program is superfluous in a post-Obamacare and Medicaid expansion world. In fact, the drafters of Obamacare intended for the CHIP program to end. Either way, these funds were already not being spent. However, Democrats used it as a talking point to scare phony Republicans away from supporting the one notional spending cut package they could pass without a filibuster.
Fast-forward to the current “CROmnibus” legislators are passing to fund HHS at record levels, and they are now using some of the very funding they claimed was vital to children’s health as a way of offsetting new spending, just as Vought predicted. The budget gimmick is called “Changes in Mandatory Programs (CHIMPs).” This means that they take a pot of money from “mandatory” entitlement programs that was never going to be spent and use it to increase discretionary spending.
This bill is full of other budget gimmicks, such as increasing “overseas contingency operation” spending (which is not subject to budget caps) for the endless wars, aka social engineering Islamic sectarian strife, in order to bust even the increased budget caps.
The president was right to criticize this bill for not funding border priorities while funding everything else. I would add that the bill also needs to end the bogus asylum and UAC invasion as well as combat sanctuary cities. The president promised in March never to get taken to the cleaners by Congress again on a budget bill. Well, now is the time to issue an ironclad veto threat and have this fight. The lies Congress used to block his rescissions package are apparent in this very bill and should serve as one more reason for him to dust off his veto pen and demand that House pass a bill with his priorities.
In explaining our constitutional system of checks and balances during debate at the convention, the great James Wilson, one of the leading crafters of the Constitution, observed, “In order to controul the Legislative authority, you must divide it. In order to controul the Executive you must unite it.” Unfortunately, despite the many factions and the bicameralism inherent in the legislature, they are united by endless spending. The president was vested with the sole responsibility of the veto pen because he alone would be accountable for his actions.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.