11.06.2014 1

McConnell: ‘We will use the power of the purse’

By Robert Romano

“It takes 60 votes to do a lot of things in the Senate, but there are some things we can do with 51 votes.”

That was the presumed incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a post-election press conference on November 5, outlining his plans to use the budget process to rein in what he called the “overactive bureaucracy.”

“I think it’s within our ability, within our power to pass more appropriations bills which fund the government, and there’s no secret that I and most of my members think that the bureaucratic strangulation of our economy is a huge factor in the slow growth that we’ve experienced after the deep recession of 2008,” he explained.

Therefore, McConnell said, “We will use the power of the purse to push back against this overactive bureaucracy.”

On the surface, that sounds rather positive. That means policy riders on the appropriations bills.

He pointed to Obamacare as one item, but also the administration’s war on coal as a prime example of something that would be attached to the Interior and Environment appropriations bills, referring to detrimental Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on coal plants set to take effect in June 2015.

McConnell promised to allow amendments on the floor from members of both parties, meaning there will be a lot of roll call votes on these riders, and therefore numerous opportunities in 2015 to affect policy via the budget process.

This opens up the door for agenda items to be included in the appropriations bills, including provisions to defund things like the Internet giveaway, which passed the House of Representatives in a rider offered by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) to the Department of Commerce funding bill.

On that measure, time is short. Transferring control over the Internet’s domain name system and assigned numbers functions from the Commerce Department could be done as soon as September 30, 2015 when the current contract expires.

Meaning, even if the House and Senate pass Commerce appropriations in 2015 with the defund included, unless Obama signs that bill, it will not become law, and the U.S. can kiss Internet oversight goodbye.

The same could be said for Obama’s planned illegal immigration executive amnesty, apparently set to occur next month. If it is not addressed in December or soon thereafter, it will become the law of the land for all intents and purposes.

And then there’s Obamacare, which has been in effect since 2010, but will be fully implemented come next year.

And don’t forget the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule forcing counties, cities, and towns to build low-income housing smack in the middle of suburban neighborhoods. There was a rider which also passed the House in an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.). That measure too went into effect last month.

The longer Republicans wait to put legislation on Obama’s desk defunding these items, the more likely they are to become permanent. It would therefore be better to at least attempt to include as many defunds as possible in the December continuing resolution, or failing that, to kick the 2015 funding bill into March, when the Republican Senate would have an opportunity to take it up and include more imminent policy riders.

Because, playing the McConnell strategy out, assume for a moment that Obama is inclined to veto the House and Senate-passed appropriations bills next year, and that Republicans may lack the votes to override those vetoes.

Then, the only way to pass a budget or achieve policy changes will be through continuing resolution and debt ceiling votes.

Except, McConnell refused to use those, too, ceding significant leverage on the power of the purse. When asked, McConnell said, “There will be no government shutdowns or defaulting on the national debt.” Presumably, that means there will not be any significant riders on must-pass spending or debt ceiling bills.

However, if Obama proves to be intransigent on issues that have a devastating impact on the United States, McConnell’s willingness to go the wall to protect our nation’s interests will need to change.

If he is truly determined to use the power of the purse, McConnell should get busy in the December funding bill — before the 2016 presidential election cycle consumes the congressional cycle. Take as many bites at the apple as possible.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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