It’s become an annual ritual before Christmas. Both parties, despite the fake wrestling of soap opera politics, come together to increase spending and add special interest policy riders into a 2,000-page omnibus bill dropped hours before a vote is conducted, while nothing in the bill addresses the core challenges of our time that matter most to the citizenry. This occurs whether Republicans control one, two, or all three branches of the legislative process.
Yesterday afternoon, the bipartisan oligarchy dropped the omnibus bills to fund all of government for the remainder of fiscal year 2020. Unlike past years, lawmakers divided it into two pieces of legislation – a 540-page bill funding Defense, Homeland Security, and the Justice Department, and a separate 1,773-page bill funding the rest of government. They are also expected to add hundreds of pages of special-interest tax carve-outs for various industries, known as “tax extenders.” Rather than pushing for a continuing resolution to keep the status quo through the Christmas break so we can have a national debate over the broader priorities, Trump is being pressured to sign away the remaining leverage of his term. Now is the time for him to discover his veto pen.
In February, Trump mistakenly agreed to an omnibus bill rather than pushing another short-term CR, which would have set up a funding fight after the DHS announced a state of emergency at the border in March. During the initial government shutdown, the border crisis was still too subtle, so Democrats were able to deny the need for more immigration enforcement and a border wall. That would have changed had he just signed a short-term extension. The same principle applies now. No matter what happens in our country that proves the need for more ICE and wall funding, Trump will not have leverage with a funding deadline, because these bills will keep government funded for the remainder of the year.
Is Trump’s payback against the Democrats’ unprecedented vote of impeachment against him to sign their budget bills on the very same day?
Let’s review just a handful of major problems with these bills juxtaposed to Trump’s campaign promises:
The bills increase the deficit by another $390 billion on top of the increases from previous years, placing spending levels well above Trump’s budget proposals in every year. The bills contain record funding for the Institutes of Health, Head Start, Title I education funds for low-income children and Child Care and Development grants, all programs the president promised to slash. EPA funding is massively increased to $9 billion, greater than the budget of ICE, which oversees 3.3 million illegal aliens. Federal workers get a 3.1 percent pay raise, on par with that of the military.
While they dramatically increase spending for bureaucracies like the Department of Education, they don’t increase spending for the most needed function – immigration enforcement. ICE badly needs more detention space and agents for deportations.
The bills codify for another year the MS-13 trafficking loophole provision that was first inserted in the February bill. They prospectively invite illegal alien relatives to traffic their kids via cartels and then be reunited with them at taxpayer expense, and the reward for doing so is that ICE cannot deport the sponsors. As I reported before, this provision is responsible for the increase in teens coming here and is one of the lynchpins to MS-13 recruitment. This provision alone should be enough to veto the bills.
Section 704 appears to invite illegal aliens to apply for federal jobs. Democrats have been trying to get DACA recipients into the federal workforce for the past few years, and this provision adds a qualification of “or is a person who owes allegiance to the United States.” What does that mean, and who determines it? The bill continues, “Affidavits signed by any such person shall be considered prima facie evidence that the requirements of this section with respect to his or her status are being complied with.” This was another bad provision concocted in the 2018 omnibus that remains.
Section 405 creates a position called “Immigration Detention Ombudsman.” The entire purpose of this position it to monitor and harass ICE agents over the treatment of illegal aliens. Nothing in these bills demands accountability and reporting on illegal alien crime and enforcement of our laws. The entire tenor of this section is premised on illegal aliens being the victims and ICE agents being the criminals.
The bigger omnibus bill (p. 43), which doesn’t even include DHS funding, offers the DHS the opportunity to double the number of H-2B non-agricultural, unskilled seasonal workers who will continue to be a public charge on America. The current acting DHS secretary, Chad Wolf, was a worker visa lobbyist and is sympathetic to these expansions.
The only major policy changes in the bills are all for special interests. They renew the corporate welfare Export-Import Bank, which subsidizes countries like Saudi Arabia to purchase Boeing products. They repeal the Obamacare tax increases, which might sound like a good thing, but it’s the worst of all worlds. The bills contain a host of reauthorizations and expansions of all the subsidy programs under Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. They also bar some of the recent regulatory reforms Trump imposed on Obamacare. That is the heart and soul of Obamacare, and it is codified and expanded. Simply repealing the funding mechanism, aka the tax increases, will just add to the deficit. Moreover, it plays into the hands of the health care cartels by giving them the one thing they want so they can now fully embrace Obamacare without reservation, dashing any hope of marshaling industry press for repeal of meaningful portions of the law. The bills also expand the federal Medicaid matching funds for U.S. territories by roughly 50 percent. This is what I call “low-tax socialism” at its best.
Shockingly, the bills also contain an earth-shattering policy change, raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21. This was a pet peeve of Mitch McConnell. So, while there was no motivation to fight back against states violating federal immigration law, McConnell grabbed for the federal government one issue that legitimately should be set by states. Moreover, as we continue to send out our 18-year olds to die for nothing in Afghanistan in a war that began before they were born, they won’t even be old enough to smoke. Also, despite the release of the Afghanistan papers showing the perfidy surrounding the Afghani military training, these bills add another $4.2 billion for training the Afghani military.
On March 23, 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, especially massive bills with multiple policy changes released just hours before a vote. “But I say to Congress: I will never sign another bill like this again,” warned the president in March 2018. “I’m not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It’s only hours old. Some people don’t even know what is in — $1.3 trillion — it’s the second largest ever.”
Well, he violated that pledge for FY 2019. Now is the time to fulfill his pledge against a $1.4 trillion omnibus that includes a massive amnesty provision for MS-13 recruitment and does nothing to deal with sanctuary cities that are dismantling all of his gains on immigration.
There is no reason why Trump can’t demand a clean continuing resolution for six weeks while the nation debates and even discovers the provisions of these bills. At the same time, he needs to use the bully pulpit and the threat of the veto pen to build the case for better immigration enforcement, punishing rebellious sanctuary states, and actually fulfilling a fraction of his promises on spending levels. Otherwise, it will never happen, even a second term. Just look at the first two years of trifecta GOP control for proof of that.
As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, the best way to rectify bad government is by educating the public and shedding light on the truth.
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.
Trump’s bully pulpit and veto pen can do that.
Yesterday, Democrats posted a 14-page fact sheet bragging about the omnibus bills. Trump needs to think long and hard about rewarding their impeachment assault with this Christmas tree.
Author: Daniel Horowitz
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.