04.04.2018 0

President Trump must force Congress to quit taking the military hostage in budget negotiations

By Printus LeBlanc

The U.S. military is the strongest most lethal force the world has ever known. There is not one square foot of space on this planet the U.S. cannot launch a strike against. However, for all its strength and power the U.S. military’s greatest weakness is Congress. It has become a yearly tradition for the military to be held hostage in the budget process. The constant Congressional games are having a detrimental effect on the military and have cost lives. President Donald Trump was extremely unhappy about signing the omnibus late last month and vowed never to do it again. If the President wishes to keep that vow, he must pressure Congress to go through the regular appropriations process and remove the military hostage Congress uses to push the budget through.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the sacred document states, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” This has turned into what is known as the “Appropriations Process.”

Each year the Executive Branch submits a budget proposal between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. Following the President’s proposal, which Congress usually ignores, the House and Senate begin their process which begins with a budget resolution, moves to authorizations, and finally appropriations. In the end, there is supposed to be 12 appropriations bills covering all spending of the federal government. The bills are then supposed to go to the President for signature and voila, the government is funded.

However, when the funding bills do not pass, a Continuing Resolution (CR) is passed to keep the federal government open. The CR does nothing more than keep the government funded at the previously funded levels. It may not seem like a big deal, but the continuous CRs are having a deadly effect on the military.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis sent a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) laying out the damage a CR will do to the military. In the 6-page letter Mattis outlined the harmful effects a CR has, with the primary effects being felt on the following:

Training: Impacts begin immediately, with the first 30-days of a CR. By 90 days, the lost training is unrecoverable due to subsequent scheduled training events. These training loses reduce the effectiveness of subsequent training events in FY18 and in subsequent years.

Readiness and Maintenance: The impacts of a CR are felt immediately, and grow exponentially over time. Although maintenance impacts can be mitigated for some activities operating under a 3-month CR, in areas, such as Navy Ship Depot Maintenance, funding shortfalls result in delays in Naval vessel availability, which may affect subsequent deployment rotations.

Personnel: The uncertainty imposed during a 3-month CR causes most hiring actions and recruitment to be curtailed, and vacancies to then be re-announced once an appropriation is enacted. This disruption leaves critical gaps in the workforce skill set and causes unnecessary angst among military and civil servants, making the government a far-less attractive option to the highest-skilled potential candidates.

President Trump has seen these problems up close. Anyone that paid attention to him in the election and since he won, knows his deep devotion to the military. The swamp also knows that and used it against him. That is why the swamp creatures have continually bundled the spending together in an omnibus with the military spending increases the President requested, making it tough not to sign the bill.

The problem is voting in the Senate. Because of antiquated rules, that are not mandated in the Constitution, appropriations bills require 60 votes to pass. The rule allows the party in the minority to declare they will filibuster, without actually launching a filibuster, to stop legislation. A lazy filibuster if you will. So, the Senate could be split 59-41, and the party with 41 Senators controls the Senate. There is nothing about this rule in the Constitution, and it is nothing more than an excuse to stop working.

Congress has the power to fix the problem. Congress must begin the appropriations process immediately and put the military funding bill up for a vote first; we only have six short months until the next funding deadline. The President has the most far-reaching bully pulpit in the world, and he must use it to pressure Congress. A few tweets from the President can send shockwaves through D.C., and a few well-timed tweets about Congress not doing their job could put the pressure on, especially during primary season.

There are 10 Senators up for reelection in states President Trump won. Put pressure on them to vote against or filibuster the defense appropriations. Make a Senator stand up for dozens of hours and tell the American people why they should not fund the military first.

It is time for Congress to prioritize the appropriations process. Congress is asking the military to put their lives on the line around the globe. At least they could give them the funds for the training and equipment needed to do the mission being asked of them.

Printus LeBlanc is a contributing editor for Americans for Limited Government.

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