A Renewed Look at the Federal Budget

We’re coming to the tail end of a few intense weeks. Chief among the chaos were two of the most dangerous hurricanes we’ve had to face in a long time. While the damage could have been much worse, it was still enough to shake things up across the country. One of the biggest political events to occur in the shadow of natural disasters was a temporary extension of the federal budget. Trump got Congress moving to respond to the events, and the short story is that relief funds have been approved and the government is not facing an impending shutdown. Let’s look at the details and see what we can learn.

The New Bill

The entire bill was proposed and passed over the course of last week. It was easily the most productive we’ve seen Congress all year. The original proposal was for $7 billion in relief funds for Harvey. While that passed the House, the Senate amended it. They upped the amount of relief to $15.3 billion but added provisions to extend the debt ceiling and fund the government through December 8. This passed the Senate 80-17, the House 316-90 and was signed by Trump on Friday. The entire process took three days.

The general takeaways from the bill are that there will be no government shutdown in October and that FEMA and similar relief efforts will be funded in the immediate future to aid with both Harvey and Irma responses. With the hard facts out of the way, we can discuss the positives and negatives that come with this bill.

Gains

We’ll start with the positive. Despite political games, it is in general a good thing for the government to not shut down (we’ll talk about the true cost of this in the next section). Most importantly, millions of Americans who need aid now will be able to receive it.

From a more political point of view, there are some other stark positives. This is the first truly bipartisan effort to happen since Trump took office. The majority of votes against the bill were done in protest by members of Congress who expected it to pass.

This also gave us a strong look at Trump’s leadership. While he has been faced with many issues already, this has been the greatest direct threat to his people so far, and he responded magnificently. He set aside his personal agenda (more on that in a minute) to ensure that the first priority was the safety and well-being of Americans. The aid package was proposed by him, and he successfully led the bipartisan response.

Losses

Unfortunately, it isn’t all good news. First, we need to talk about the debt ceiling. Trump and most Republicans want to see Washington’s spending brought under control. Any success in this department has been delayed by another three months.

In tandem with that, Trump has lost his strongest Congressional bargaining chip: the budget. When lives weren’t in immediate danger, he could threaten to allow a government shutdown to force Congress to act and push through some productive legislation. Trump tossed that bargaining chip aside with no hesitation in order to take care of a desperate situation. While his action is commendable, any progress on health care, immigration, the wall and a number of other issues has been shelved for another three months.

The situation also speaks very poorly of Congress. The nation’s legislative branch is enjoying historically low approval ratings, and despite the obvious dissent of the American people, they have continued to act in their own self interests. The original bill proposed by Trump would have granted relief funds without extending the debt ceiling. This would have forced Congress to make a real budget instead of a temporary fix, but they once again wiggled out of action. In fact, Senate Democrats were the ones who forced the debt extension, and that was punctuated by their unanimous vote in favor of the bill.

We’ve been hit by some powerful natural disasters, and that comes with good and bad. By and large, America has risen magnificently to the occasion, following some of the most decisive and effective leadership we have seen in a long time. The downside is that career politicians have predictably taken advantage of disaster to push their agendas and continue actively working against the interests of the American people.

~ American Liberty Report