By Phil Kerpen
Congress has just returned from vacation with the clock rapidly ticking toward a government shutdown because of a deliberate strategy adopted by Senate Democrats to block all of the bills that fund the government. Their goal? To renege on the Budget Control Act, the historic agreement capping discretionary spending that both parties agreed to and President Obama signed in 2011, and go back to irresponsible, runaway federal spending.
Democrats have been open, even boastful, about their strategy. Harry Reid announced it in June in a splashy story on the liberal website Politico. The Senate’s top Democratic appropriator, Barbara Mikulski, went on the record, saying: “The president will veto bills at this allocation, and Democrats will vote against motions to proceed to these bills on the Senate floor.” The allocation she was referring to was the spending levels both parties and the president agreed to that are now, by law, binding caps. Reid put it more plainly: “We’re headed for another shutdown.”
Got that? Democrats want to shut down the government if they can’t spend more money than they themselves agreed to on the EPA, the IRS, HHS, and all the rest of the vast, wasteful federal bureaucracies. It would be tragic for the country if Democrats succeed because the Budget Control Act caps are working.
Federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has fallen from 24.4 percent in 2009 to 20.3 percent in 2014, the biggest five year drop since World War II. Contrary to the claims of self-appointed experts, the return of government spending to more normal levels has been correlated with a stronger, not a weaker economy. And this is no time to loosen the reins, because looming obligations on the entitlement side of the budget are poised to swamp all of the progress that’s been made on discretionary spending.
Unfortunately, efforts by some conservatives to achieve policy objectives through the appropriations process — though substantively worthy — risk playing into Harry Reid’s hands.
The current fiscal year ends at the end of September, and will result in a government shutdown if no omnibus appropriations bill or continuing resolution is passed. With Iran set to dominate legislative time and mindshare for most of the month, the process is likely to be resolved — or not — in short order at the end of the month.
Republican unity around a vehicle that preserves the spending caps and includes as many policy riders as possible — consistent with getting a majority in the House and the crucial 60-vote threshold in the Senate — must be the goal, keeping in mind that Democratic leaders want a shutdown.
Policy language that gives Democrats political cover to sustain a filibuster risks shifting the perception of the cause of a shutdown from Democratic unwillingness to abide by spending limits to conservative insistence on policy. We know what side the media will be on.
Under pressure to avoid a shutdown, it is likely Republican leadership would blink and pass a bill eviscerating the budget caps with mostly Democratic votes. And then it’s back to the races of unchecked federal spending.
Any conservative policy language that can get through the Senate should be included. But a line-in-the-sand litmus test on policy that helps Democrats sustain a filibuster risks playing into their hands and losing the biggest limited government policy victory of the Obama years: the Budget Control Act. (my emphasis)
By Phil Kerpen for Cagle Inc.
By permission Cagle Inc.
Phil Kerpen is the president of American Commitment and the author of “Democracy Denied.”