It was over almost as soon as it began, but this morning’s government shutdown still happened. While most Americans were counting Zzzs, congressional Republicans were counting votes. And, in a tense debate over the new budget, they didn’t have them. The midnight deadline came and went, with members doing everything they could to jumpstart the government before rush hour. The internal battle between defense hawks and fiscal conservatives lasted until dawn, when the House and Senate’s compromise finally passed in enough time to take a 5:00 a.m. trip to the White House for the president’s signature.
Although the agreement keeps the government running through March 23, neither side was thrilled with the $320 billion package. The deal is particularly significant because it sets the spending caps for military and nondefense spending over the next two years. Conservatives, most vocally the House Freedom Caucus, were frustrated by the GOP’s refusal to cut costs. “We support funding our troops but growing the size of government by 13 percent is not what the voters sent us here to do,” the group tweeted.
Leaders like Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) struggled to come to grips with the steep costs. Like a lot of Republicans, he thought conservatives could do better.
“This budget deal shows the American people exactly how broken our budget and appropriations process is,” he said. “It does not address our runaway deficits and actually takes major steps backwards in the fight to reign in Washington’s overspending appetite. Our budget process has only worked correctly four times since 1974. We desperately need budget reform. I’m ashamed that we have passed five continuing resolutions since the end of last Fiscal Year in September. This is no way to govern.”
“While I strongly support the budgetary certainty and increased military funding that this bill provides, the long-term negative consequences of the bill are too many. The prevailing theme of debt ceiling negotiations is usually avoiding default, but lost in the conversation is how we got here in the first place, and how we can get out of the cycle of deficit spending.”
Good, solid conservatives voted both ways on the bill. Many of our friends probably found themselves on the opposite sides of the roll call for the first time in a long time. As difficult as the details were to swallow, President Trump and others did cheer the $165 billion bump for our troops, which finally ended the long, painful days of sequestration. “Without more Republicans in Congress,” he tweeted, “we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our Military. Sadly, we needed some Dem votes for passage. Must elect more Republicans in 2018 Election!”
As for other silver linings, FRC was pleased to see the religious liberty protections for FEMA disaster assistance included, as well as a big boost in sexual risk avoidance (abstinence) dollars ($75 million a year for two years), an extension of the funding for community health centers that don’t perform abortions, a repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board death panels, and major cuts to the Obamacare slush fund.
I would agree with President Trump with one caveat: we need to elect more conservative Republicans. We need leaders who are willing to go toe-to-toe with the liberals who have pushed America to the verge of fiscal and moral bankruptcy until we prevail.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.