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The Senate returns this week — to increase spending

Conservative Review

Remember that much-hyped stunt of Republicans keeping the Senate in session for part of the August recess? It would probably be better if they stayed home.

The point of Republicans remaining in session is to confirm the backlog of Trump’s executive nominations and to fight for conservative priorities on health care, abortion, and immigration in the budget bills in order to prep the battlefield for a major showdown in September. Instead, they plan on passing a spending bill that reflects the opposite of conservative priorities and a strategy that reveals their true allegiance.

When the Senate returns this Wednesday, leadership plans to combine the Defense appropriations bill with the Labor-Education-HHS appropriations bill. This $867 billion combined package wrongly pairs military spending with Obamacare and other harmful health care and labor programs. I’ve long advised that Republicans should pair Defense with Homeland Security and Trump’s immigration priorities for a more coherent security package that would put vulnerable Democrats on defense and set the stage for a budget fight in September. Now they are doing the opposite.

There are a couple of important observations about the latest GOP budget betrayal:

  • The $179.3 billion Labor-Education-HHS components of the package include a $541 million increase for the Department of Education and a $2.3 billion increase for HHS. Remember, this is on top of the insane omnibus baseline they are now enshrining. The National Institutes of Health’s record $37.1 billion in funding for this year would go up to $39.1 billion.
  • Just look at the wide gulf between what Congress is passing and what the president requested in his budget blueprint. For HHS, the president requested $68.4 billion, while the Senate is appropriating $90.1 billion. For Education, the president requested $59.9 billion, while the Senate is appropriating $71.4 billion. For Labor, the president requested $9.4 billion, while the Senate is appropriating $12.1 billion. In total, this is a 30 percent increase from the president’s budget.
  • It maintains the $286 million for the “family planning program” known as Title X.
  • The HHS component of the bill fully funds the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s unaccompanied alien child refugee program at the highest levels without making any reforms to ensure that only those who are truly victims of “a severe form of trafficking” are eligible. In fact, most of them are self-trafficked and are not unaccompanied. It’s astounding that Republicans would agree to fully fund the program when there is so much evidence that we are admitting violent gangsters under a law designed to protect those who are persecuted.
  • Members are bragging that by packaging these two appropriations bills together, they are potentially going to pass 70 percent of the appropriations before the budget deadline. But the goal was never to pass the appropriations bills for their own sake; the goal was to pass bills that advance the GOP’s campaign priorities. If they codify Democrat spending levels, programs, and priorities, then what is the point?

Think about it: Rather than pairing the wall, ICE, and immigration riders with funding for the military, for one large messaging bill on safety and security – and then pounding the many vulnerable Senate Democrats with ads – they are pairing the Department of Education, Obamacare, welfare programs, and Title X with the military! Those are the true priorities of GOP senators.

Trump must brandish his veto pen in preparation for the September fight. The president is counting on strong economic growth to protect his presidency, but as I have warned for months, the growing debt and the rising interest rates are inhibiting what should be a period of unrivaled growth. The CBO just downgraded the projection of growth for the remainder of the year precisely because of the increase in spending and interest rates. The budget office predicts that “higher interest rates and greater federal borrowing ultimately ‘crowd out’ some private activities, particularly private investment.”

Everything comes down to the budget. Are we really going to allow unprecedented GOP control of government to result in codifying Obamacare, abortion funding, and the amnesty agenda, while growing every socialist program beyond even Obama’s levels?

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