Spending Fight in Congress

Jenny Beth Martin | December 14, 2022 | 9:50am EST
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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

While Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media want you to believe that the ongoing negotiations over a government funding bill are about a difference of $26 billion – a paltry sum in a $1.7 trillion behemoth of a spending bill – the true difference is far more fundamental: Democrats believe they can and should ignore the will of the voters as expressed in last month’s elections, while Republicans believe that in America, the voters’ will rules. That’s what is really at stake in the ongoing negotiations over government funding levels for Fiscal Year 2023, and that’s why Republicans must hold firm in these negotiations.

Congressional Democrats under Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want to use their remaining few days in power to ram through a comprehensive omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, all the way through the end of September 2023. In order to do that, under their plan, they first must pass a one-week Continuing Resolution, to keep the government funded beyond Friday, when the current funding law expires.

Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, under the leadership of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, want instead to pass a short-term funding bill of several weeks’ duration, to keep the government funded long enough to let the new Congress be seated, so it can do the people’s business.

The new Congress was elected in last month’s elections. Hence, it more accurately reflects the current attitudes of the citizenry than does the Congress elected more than two years ago.

The Framers of our Constitution understood the importance of the House of Representatives and the significance of the power of the purse in ensuring individual liberty and limited government. The Framers deliberately gave the power of the purse to the Congress – and, more specifically, to the House, where all revenue bills must originate.

James Madison wrote eloquently in Federalist 58 about the role of the House in controlling federal spending as a means to ensuring individual liberty and limited government: “This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

What has been the citizenry’s primary grievance against the government, as demonstrated in virtually every public opinion poll taken in the last year? Inflation – the inflation caused by the Democrats’ reckless spending over the last two years.

Not surprisingly, the citizenry used its biennial opportunity to choose its government leaders to make a change, by giving control of the House – “the immediate representatives of the people,” in Madison’s phrase – to the Republicans. 

Democrats act as if those elections never happened. By seeking to pass a full-year spending bill through a lame duck Congress, Congressional Democrats are ignoring the will of the people as expressed in last month’s elections. It’s just that simple. They are acting as if the citizenry has no say, and should have no say, in what the government does – which is, after all, what a government funding bill is all about.

Worse, these Democrats are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. The only reason they’re still negotiating a government funding bill in December is because they didn’t do their jobs earlier in the year, as they’re supposed to. They didn’t pass the government funding bills on time, before the start of the new fiscal year in October, because they didn’t want to go on record casting votes for massive spending bills and then be held accountable by the voters in the November elections. Now that the elections have passed, and many will not be coming back in the next Congress, they want to ram through a full-year spending bill.

That’s just wrong. 

As Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee helpfully pointed out in a tweet this week, no previous lame duck Congress, with a zombie majority still in place for just a few more weeks, would have been so arrogant as to have disregarded the clear message the voters had just sent them. “There has NEVER been an instance of Congress passing an omnibus spending bill before a new House majority takes power,” Sen. Lee tweeted.

In fact, following the most recent similar event – that is, Republicans recapturing the House majority from Democrats while Democrats maintain control of the Senate and the White House, which most recently occurred in the 2010 election – the Congress did not finalize the budget until April of 2011, more than three months into the new Congress. Between them, the 111th Congress (2009-2010) and the 112th Congress (2011-2012) passed multiple Continuing Resolutions, stretching for more than six months, while they negotiated full-year funding for Fiscal Year 2011.

Not only did the last Democrat-to-Republican lame duck Congress not try to pass a comprehensive full-year funding bill, but when the funding bill did finally pass in the new Congress, it actually achieved budget savings – it saved $42 billion in nondefense spending relative to the previous year. 

What’s been done before can, and should, be done again.

Passage of a comprehensive full-year omnibus spending package by a Congress that just four weeks ago was rejected by America’s voters would be a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to America’s voters, courtesy of congressional Democrats. Think of it as Nancy Pelosi’s last hurrah. The very notion of it is as offensive as it is absurd.

Republicans should just vote no – no on the one-week extension of funding, and no on a full-year omnibus spending bill. It’s just that simple.


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