• Lots of Blame to Go Around on Latest Congressional/White House Budget Deal

    Surge Summary: The new budget pact agreed to by Congressional Democrats and the White House removes nearly all restraints on federal government spending — with blame to go around on all sides. 

    The first clause of the first sentence in the excerpt below is telling – you might not read anything like it again for a while. So pay attention.

    Andrew Taylor/Associated Press tells us:

    Observing a rare cease-fire in their battles with President Donald Trump, the Democratic-controlled House on Thursday easily passed bipartisan debt and budget legislation to permit the Treasury to issue bonds to pay the government’s bills and lock in place recent budget gains for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

    Passing by a 284-149 vote, the measure would get ahead of another politically dangerous – if not fiscally dangerous — government shutdown. Its proponents hope it would add an element of stability to this upcoming fall’s congressional actions; a full plate of them.  That “stability” would be an expensive one, no denying; but whatever …

    The Senate is expected to approve the bill this week.

    The unlikely agreement between the Trump Administration and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi removes the limit on the government’s $22 trillion debt for two years and rescues the Pentagon and domestic agencies from being hit with $125 billion in automatic spending cuts that are all that remains of a failed 2011 budget pact. It’s actually an abandoned pact and has been in the process of being dismantled for a while now.

    For elected officials seeking to dodge impending political and economic turmoil which they fear a government shutdown is sure to bring? The deal is a definite plus. For the nation and its future? The future only knows.

    Trump took to Twitter to give the legislation his strongest endorsement yet: “House Republicans should support the TWO YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT which greatly helps our Military and our Vets.” He added in a note of encouragement, “I am totally with you!”

    “Totally with” Nancy Pelosi and her Dems on hiked spending and barely-there cuts? Wow.

    Democrats rallied behind the legislation, which protects domestic programs some of them have fought to protect for decades through extended stretches of GOP control of Congress. Pelosi held the vote open to make sure the tally of Democratic votes topped the 218 required to pass the measure with Democratic support alone, a demonstration of strength.

    Not a few House GOP conservatives – at least those with sense and character enough to stick with that sense – eschewed the President’s tweeted advice and went the other way. Having won election promising to go after stubborn and ballooning federal deficits, these lawmakers’ voting no” proved they meant it.

    Many supporters, including the GOP leadership team, praised the bill as an imperfect but necessary result of Washington’s current divided balance of power and an already overheated presidential campaign.

    “The alternatives are very, very bad,” said Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee.

    Helpful reminder: overspending into oblivion can also go on the “very, very bad” list.

    The deal contains no new steps to compensate for the increased expenditures by shrinking spending in other budget areas. Many conservatives and lawmakers are alarmed at the prospect of reappearing $1 trillion-plus annual deficits.

    “Republicans who go along with this budget deal will lose all credibility on spending. This budget deal is ludicrous,” said Jason Pye of the FreedomWorks conservative advocacy group. “The GOP has been misleading the American public on spending for years now. Yeah, they talk a great game on the campaign trail. But when it’s crunch time, they fold.”

    Yikes. That stings, but somebody needs to be acknowledging these things.  1000 points to the man from FreedomWorks!

    In a rare fail for the Republican president with members of his own caucus, Trump’s active support for the legislation was ineffective in rallying them behind this effort. It represents a weird flip: Democrats ended up backing the bill by a 13-1 margin; less than one in three Republicans joined them ratifying the Trump-endorsed measure.

    Again, kudos to those hardy GOP legislators who gave the thumbs down.

    Then there’s this:

    GOP conservatives, who comprise Trump’s strongest base of support in Washington, weren’t critical of Trump for agreeing to the deal, even after Pelosi forced GOP negotiators to drop ambitious cuts to try to defray the bill’s impact on the debt. Few opposition Republicans issued statements on the bill that might put them on record opposing Trump.

    Conservatives, you say? What species of conservatives are these, pray tell?

    “You just have to understand that you lost in the negotiations and express your opinion, vote your conscience and go on,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C [who opposed the spending deal]. “It’s different when you’re in the minority.”

    Again, Pelosi scuttled a late GOP attempt to increase offsetting spending cuts. She did promise to not use the follow-up spending bills to add “poison pill” policy riders. The agreement also granted the president’s demand to retain budgetary transfer authority to try to shift funding to border projects.

    Kentucky’s conservative Republican Rep. Thomas Massie pluckily introduced a vote to rename the measure “A Bill to Kick the Can Down the Road.” Clever. Fitting. But it was easily defeated.

    That Pelosi was the main architect of the measure, all by itself should have set off alarm bells. Yet, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joined her.

    Washington’s arcane budget rules give each side a way to paint the deal favorably. Generally speaking, it would lock in place big increases won by both sides in a 2018 pact.

    By one measure, the price tag for the legislation posts at $324 billion. But more than two-thirds of that is to simply maintain current spending levels rather than fall prey to the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration. Another measure is $103 billion, spread over two years to Pentagon and domestic accounts, to permit modest budget hikes of 3 or 4 percentage points above current levels.

    Again, it’s all so jumbled together and very confusing. Maybe that’s the point? Keep it dense and opaque, hoping the taxpayers’ eyes cross and, so, they just move on?

    Indulging more government-speak blah-blah, the House Speaker exulted:

     “We are pleased that our increase in non-defense budget actually exceeds the parity number on defense by $10 billion over the next two years. … And we’re pleased to be able to say that we have secured an increase of more than $100 billion in the budget cap for domestic priorities since the President took office.”

    For some progressives, as you’d expect, heightened spending for the Pentagon budget was too much and increases for domestic programs too little. Nonetheless, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has lately been at odds with Pelosi, voted for the measure despite raising concerns on Twitter earlier in the week.

    Does this mean the Speaker of the House and AOC are on chummy terms again?

    Veronique de Rugy concludes,

    If the last eight years have proven anything, it’s that nothing is more predictable than the spectacle of both parties making a deal to do away with the caps, at least “temporarily.”

    … THIS YEAR, the deficit will end up being the fourth highest in U.S. history. It’s gigantic, and it will hit a little over $1 trillion by the end of the fiscal year. It’s also larger than previously projected. And it’s growing fast, at a time when the United States is not in a recession — unlike the economies that delivered the three previous highest deficits.

    The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s Maya MacGuineas

    rightfully noted that “this agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the President. It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history, proposed at a time when our fiscal conditions are already precarious.”

    So, whatever modest initiatives had been present for holding at bay Washington’s disbursement of present and future taxpayer monies? They’re history, unless the Senate shocks us this week. Democrat lawmakers are to blame. And many a Republican, the Republican President not excluded, carry their share of culpability as well.

    Image: Adapted from:  Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

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