2018 Fiscal Budget: When Congress Unites, the American People Lose

President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill after a tumultuous few weeks of political infighting. The bipartisan budget deal adds hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending on domestic programs, the military, and disaster relief.

The passage of this bill reopened the government after a brief overnight shutdown. Broad budget numbers are set for the next two years but lawmakers face another deadline on March 23 when Congress must vote on the details of how those billions are appropriated to various government agencies.

With two government shutdowns in three weeks, the question is how long until the next?

Since Congress introduced the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act in 1976 there have been a total of 19 so-called government shutdowns. While the federal budget process established by that act has served well to manage an increasingly large budget, it has also made for the staging ground for some of the most fiercely partisan fights in Washington.

While mostly political bluster, the effect of one threatened shutdown after another has taken its toll. The loser in these shutdowns is the American people. Most often the very term “shutdown” has become the tool used to whip up fear where visions of a military unable to operate or the elderly not receiving Social Security are encourage by opposing sides.

All but nine of these shutdowns lasted less than a weekend, and in all of them essential government services were never halted.

“I call them ‘fake shutdowns,'” said Marc Goldwein, senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – a bipartisan, nonprofit organization that educates the public on fiscal policy issues. Most shutdowns occur over the course of a weekend. We’re talking days or weeks – not months.”

Since 1976 there have been three such shutdowns with any real significance. In each case, the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act did what it was designed to do – allow a way forward when Congress could absolutely not agree on essentials.

The winter of 1995 and 1996 saw the two longest shutdowns for a total of 26 days during the Clinton administration when the President and the Republican Congress were at odds. The longest shutdown in U.S. history lasted 21 days after Clinton vetoed the spending bill offered by the Republican-controlled Congress. Three long weeks later, Congress and President Clinton agreed to a seven-year budget plan, which included modest tax increases and spending cuts and.”

The next longest shutdown occurred in the fall of 2013 when Congress could not come to an agreement on the Affordable Care Act. In that case, the Senate and House passed several versions back and forth

As in 2013, the specter of government shutdown rests in the ideological divide between the Senate and House. Senate Republicans and Democrats may have reached a compromise but the House is a different matter altogether. Consider Representative Mo Brooks (Rep-AL) reaction to the Senate bill. Warning of trillion-dollar-a-year deficits he said, “This spending bill is a debt junkie’s dream. I’m not only a no, I’m a hell no.”

This tug of war between fiscal conservatives and big government proponents is often lost on the average voter. All they see is a Congress unable to agree. But is agreement always a good thing? Who would have predicted that when Republicans won full control of Congress and the White House over a year ago they would agree on a budget that includes $1 trillion in budget deficits?

The agreement that President Trump just signed will raise existing spending limits by a combined $296 billion through 2019. A look at those votes in both parties reveals just how divided they both are. Seventy-three House Democrats voted for the bill, while 119 voted against it. Among Republicans, 167 supported it and 67 voted no.

House liberals and immigration activists are furious as congressional leaders who voted for the massive two-year budget deal without a fix for “dreamers,” immigrants brought to the United States as children. Rand Paul (Rev – KY) showed his intense displeasure with a budget that will increase an ever-deepening national debt with his own mini-marathon the night before the bill’s passage.

In the end, the major problem with all these last minute theatrics is the level of spending on both sides. Democrats set aside fiscal austerity in the final years of the Obama administration but now Republicans in Congress seem to be ditching their deficit worries and ready to launch a new era of big spending in Washington.

~ American Liberty Report

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