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Senate Vote: 31     Vote Date: Feb 9th, 2018

Issue: H.R. 1892, Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (Confusing vehicle: Honoring Hometown Heroes Act). Question: On the Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 1892 with an Amendment (SA 1930).

Result: Agreed to, 71 to 28, 1 not voting. (Agreed to by House later that day, House Roll Call 69.) Became Public Law 115-123 (signed by the President, 2-9-2018). GOP only scored.

Freedom First Society:  This “bipartisan” agreement carved out by the Senate leadership, with input from House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, increases federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars we don’t have. As such, it is equivalent to legalized counterfeiting through the Federal Reserve System.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) tweeted: “This spending proposal is disgusting and reckless — the biggest spending increase since 2009.” Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) complained: “What you’re seeing is recklessness trying to be passed off as bipartisanship.” But it’s not recklessness, it’s duplicity.

We do not score the Senate Democrats on this one, as several of the 11 who opposed this measure, including potential 2020 presidential candidates, apparently were protesting the lack of progress in granting immigration amnesty to DREAMERS.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Bill Summary:  The massive Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 addresses multiple current and future appropriations topics. Here are some of the principal ones:

  • The Act further extends continuing appropriations for FY 2018 through March 23rd (the 5th Continuing Resolution), keeping the government fully funded as the details of an expected omnibus are worked out to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year ending September 30th.
  • To win bipartisan support for this measure, the massive Act raises the defense and non-defense budget caps (imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act) for FY 2018 and FY 2019. The cap on discretionary spending for defense was increased by $80 billion in FY 2018 and $85 billion in FY 2019.

The cap on discretionary spending for nondefense was increased by $63 billion for FY 2018 and $68 billion for FY 2019.

  • Some of the other “sweeteners” designed to attract bipartisan support include:

– $6 billion to address opioid addiction and mental health;

– $2 billion to the National Institutes of Health;

– $20 billion in infrastructure investment;

– $ 7 billion for community health centers;

– and $4 billion to help the Veterans Administration Department with its backlog.

  • In addition, the Act provides $89.3 billion in new supplemental disaster aid, not subject to the caps, for states and territories damaged by the recent hurricanes and wildfires;
  • And the Act suspends the debt limit ceiling through March 1, 2019.

The Congressional Budget office estimates that the net budgetary impact of The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 will cost an additional $320 billion over the next ten years, much of that in the first year.

The measure did offer about $100 billion in questionable “offsets” to help fund the increased spending. For example, some of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would be sold off and surplus funds at Federal Reserve Banks reduced.

Analysis:  This fiscally irresponsible Act makes zero effort to roll back massive unconstitutional federal programs and spending. Of some comfort, 16 GOP senators (and 73 GOP representatives) did stand tall and opposed the massive spending spree, signed into law by President Trump.

The Hill (2-7-18) quotes Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) as objecting to the excessive defense outlays:

“Military spending and defense spending is far above the president’s request,” he said. “I’m all for supporting our military and I want to make sure they’re funded properly. It’s very difficult to have that big an increase in one year and then be able to use it wisely.”

But others, such as Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah), put their disregard for constitutional limits on full display:

“Mr. President, I rise today to speak in strong support of the bipartisan Budget Act which will hopefully pass later today.   This bill, as the name implies, is the result of rigorous, bipartisan, and bicameral negotiations. I am pleased to have played a part in this endeavor….”

Hatch, Ted Kennedy and CHIP

According to Medicaid.gov, “The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health coverage to eligible children, through both Medicaid and separate CHIP programs. CHIP is administered by states, according to federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by states and the federal government.

During the debate, Hatch stated his support for the extension of the CHIP program, one of several parts of the Act not summarized above:

“Among the more prominent victories in this bill is an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program for an additional 4 years. As we all know, last month Congress passed a historic 6-year CHIP extension, which was eventually signed into law. The bill before us would add another 4 years on top of that 6-year provision, providing a total extension of 10 years — 10 years. That is remarkable. I have a long history with the CHIP program. I was the original author of the program, and I have always been an outspoken champion of it.   We have had some back-and-forth here in the Senate about CHIP in recent months, and some of it has gotten pretty fierce. However, today the Senate will pass legislation — bipartisan legislation — to provide unprecedented security and certainty for the families who depend on CHIP and the State governments that need more predictability to map out their own expenditures.   I am sure my friend, former Senator Kennedy, is up there watching. I am very happy he came on this bill in the early stages and helped to put it through.”   [Emphasis added.]

President Trump had earlier tweeted his support for the CHIP extension.

The Brief Shutdown

There was some drama attached to the Senate passage of the Act. Since the Act had the support of both the Republican and Democratic leaders, the outcome of the Senate vote was never in doubt. However, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) was able to delay the vote for several hours by insisting on an opportunity for an amendment. The delay resulted in a several hour shutdown of the government.

Paul wanted the Senate to vote on an amendment that would restore the budget caps. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused Paul’s demand, saying to do so would risk opening the measure for a flood of amendments.   Many of Paul’s colleagues argued that Paul’s stand was pointless, merely wasting fellow senators’ time.

However, we have to side with Paul.   Few of those supporting the massive Act would have been eager to vote explicitly to lift the caps. It was much easier for senators to vote for a complex measure that could be camouflaged as a compromise necessary to keep the government open and support our military.

And when it was clear that Paul would not get a vote on his amendment, his stand still garnered a great deal of news, highlighting the GOP sellout. On the Senate floor that night he stated:

“When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party, but when Republicans are in power, it seems that there is no conservative party.”

Without Paul’s stand, the extravagant GOP spending would have received much less attention. The time it cost Senators to have this point made was negligible compared to what’s at stake for the nation’s future and the hundreds of billions of dollars of additional debt.