09.20.2018 0

Congress deferring to another continuing resolution for end of fiscal year—again

By Robert Romano

It’s 10 days until the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 and naturally that means that Congress has not passed all of the appropriations bills needed to keep the government fully funded. And so, like it does every year, Congressional leadership is looking to pass a continuing resolution.

It will include the full year’s funding for Defense and Health and Human Services, on top of Energy, Miltary Construction and Legislative Affairs that already passed and just continue appropriations at current levels until Dec. 7 for everything else. Another cromnibus. The Senate voted 93 to 7 on the conference report on Sept. 18, with the measure now moving to the House.

Meaning, some of the most important decisions on what to fund will not be made until after the midterm elections — when there’s nothing that voters will be able to do about it.

In 2010, when the tea party movement propelled House Republicans to a landslide victory in the midterms, they promised things were going to be different. Then, House minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for doing away with big spending bills: “Let’s do away with the concept of ‘comprehensive’ spending bills. Let’s break them up, to encourage scrutiny, and make spending cuts easier. Rather than pairing agencies and departments together, let them come to the House floor individually, to be judged on their own merit.”

Boehner also blasted Congress for putting off big spending questions until after the elections, calling for “fiscal discipline” in order to “prevent a lame-duck Congress from writing another bloated omnibus spending bill after the November elections.”

What a joke. That’s exactly how Republicans have governed. Continuing resolutions in September, followed by omnibus bills in December. And this year, we’re doing it again.

And the deficit? As of August, it was $898 billion according to U.S. Treasury markets. Depending on how September goes, and Congress is a hair’s breadth away from the first $1 trillion deficit in almost a decade.

In the meantime, despite all that spending, Congress cannot find any money to fund certain things they promised they would, for example, the southern border wall. It’s frustrating.

That doesn’t mean Congress is without certain accomplishments. It’s not all bad.

In the tax cut bill, which was a big success, the Obamacare individual mandate was repealed and oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge was allowed. The Trump administration’s top legislative priority besides tax cuts was rebuilding the nation’s military, which is well underway. The Obama era Housing and Urban Development zoning rule has been defunded. Many Obama midnight regulations were repealed.

Overall, President Donald Trump has had 68 judges confirmed to district and circuit courts, plus Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh, despite his current headwinds, is about to be confirmed, which will bring the number to 69, which is about the average that has been seen at the midpoint of presidencies. Usually, about 160 or so judges are confirmed every presidential term, so the Senate will need to confirm about another 10 the rest of this year to keep pace.

That’s all good news.

But for voters headed to the ballot box in November, the question that might be coming to mind is “What have you done for me lately?” When they look at that the spending side of the equation they’re going to feel nauseous.

That’s why President Trump should be carefully considering vetoing the current spending bill, particularly, if it doesn’t fund the wall, and then rally one-third of either the House or the Senate to sustain the veto so a real negotiation might be had. If Republicans perceive it to be even possible they might lose control of the House, then now is the time to enact the Trump agenda. Do what they promised.

Also, drain the swamp by passing the MERIT Act and make it easier to fire bad federal employees.

Midterms elections are hard enough to win for incumbent political parties. 9 times out of 10 you’re going to lose seats in the House going back more than a century. The times you can mitigate the damage are when the opposition are dealt losses legislatively that divides them. But you need that to happen pretty close to the elections. Kavanaugh might fit that prescription, but if the GOP really wants to drive the dagger in, they should also be building the wall and passing the MERIT Act.

Updated to reflect Senate roll call vote on Sept. 18. Correction: Energy, Miltary Construction and Legislative Affairs also passed.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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