Issue: S. Con. Res. 11 Setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2016 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2017 through 2025. Question: On Agreeing to the Conference Report. (The Senate agreed to the Conference Report on 5-5-15, Senate vote 171.)
Result: Passed in House, 226 to 197, 14 not voting. Republicans scored.
Freedom First Society: In several critical ways this budget resolution is a sham calculated to deceive voters. The Constitution provides the missing standard for curtailing federal spending. Most of what the federal government does today is not authorized by the Constitution. The responsible goal for energizing America should be to eliminate unconstitutional programs, not to rely on trimming future spending to a “sustainable” level.
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As experience shows, deferring the tough decisions for cutting spending to future Congresses doesn’t work. What’s needed is backbone now. And this resolution doesn’t show it.
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.)
Resolution Summary: Establishes the congressional budget for the federal government for FY2016 and sets forth budgetary levels for FY2017-FY2025. Guides the 12 appropriations committees. Sets forth rules for budget enforcement in both chambers.Analysis: In several critical ways this budget resolution is a sham calculated to deceive voters.
Managing the House floor debate for proponents of the resolution, Tom Price (R-Georgia) argued:
“What we have before us today, Mr. Speaker, is a budget that balances within 10 years without raising taxes and reduces spending over $5 trillion over that period of time, which will not only get Washington’s fiscal house in order, but pave the way for stronger economic growth, more jobs, and more opportunity.
However, as Reuters reported following the May 5th Senate vote:
“But most of the prescribed cuts will be ignored, as the new budget plan does not instruct congressional committees to implement them.”
Why 10 years?
GOP proponents hailed this resolution as putting us on a path to balancing the budget, not tomorrow, but in 10 years. However, as experience shows, deferring the tough decisions to future Congresses doesn’t work. What’s needed is backbone now.
Missing: The Constitution!
The proper source for backbone in curtailing federal spending is the Constitution. Unconstitutional programs must be eliminated or responsibly phased out.
Most of what the federal government does today is not authorized by the Constitution. That includes federal involvement in health care and education. As originally ratified by the States, the Constitution empowers the federal government to act only in a very few specific areas, such as national defense (see, e.g., Article I, Section 8).
In the so-called political debate, there is an appalling lack of reference to what the Constitution authorizes and does not authorize. Instead, the arguments center on how to finance our bloated federal government in a “sustainable” way (e.g., trimming waste and rooting out fraud). The potentially explosive resurgence of American economic health will never occur if we are satisfied merely to navigate the edge of bankruptcy.
What Won’t Work
In the debates, several GOP Representatives spoke eloquently about the seriousness of our unsustainable financial path. One of those was Representative Tom McClintock (R-Calif):
“Our Nation’s debt has literally doubled in 8 years, now exceeding the size of our entire economy. That debt requires us to make interest payments of $230 billion this year. That is nearly $2,000 from an average family’s taxes just to rent the money that we have already spent.
“On our current path, that burden will triple within a decade, eclipsing our entire defense budget. Medicare and Social Security will collapse just a few years after that. Time is not our ally, and the future is not a pleasant place if we continue just a few more years down the road that we have been on.”
We don’t dispute Mr. McClintock’s analysis. What we do dispute, however, is that budget proposals, such as this one, are progress. Just the opposite is the case.
Any benefits likely to be derived from the proposed budget course are more than offset by the prolonged damage caused by continuing to mislead the American people. We cannot continue down the road that relies on comfortable partisan steps to avoid financial ruin, let alone bring prosperity. And we can ill afford another 10 years to learn the lesson.
Unless driven by an informed electorate to adhere to the strict limits of the Constitution, there is no way that Congress will or can contain the federal monster. This is true because our political leaders and, most certainly, the Establishment media won’t even discuss the source of the pressure to expand federal spending. And that pressure will continue until it is understood by more Americans.
The revolutionary forces, influence, and agendas responsible for the explosion in federal programs since World War II have not had America’s best interests at heart. The polite assumption that poor judgment, liberal ideology, or even recklessness are responsible for our fiscal mess cannot provide a workable foundation for the kind of corrective action needed.
No, there is more at work here than misguided, but good intentions. Indeed, the explosive growth in government has occurred precisely because some men of influence see it as the way to use government, not to serve the people, but to control the people. And they have used massive deception and organization to accomplish that goal.
Senator Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, led the advocates in the Senate debate over the budget resolution. Mr. Enzi argued a purely defensive approach to reigning in government spending that ignores the powerful forces pushing for more government:
“What are the two best ways to make a difference?
“First, Congress should look at the more than 260 programs whose authorization — the right to spend money — has expired….
“Now, there is a second way. The other way we can balance the budget is to grow the economy…. The Congressional Budget Office tells us that … if we were to increase the private sector growth by 1 percent, that would provide an additional $300 billion in additional tax revenue every year. I think that could balance the budget.”
We have no argument with targeting programs whose authorization has expired. But many more unconstitutional programs and even departments must be abolished by curtailing appropriations. Increased revenue is not an ally in that war. Indeed, proponents of more government will view such revenue as justification for more spending.
As is so typical of GOP leadership, Enzi accepts prior unconstitutional socialist inroads, such as Medicare, enacted by a Democrat-controlled Congress under President Johnson, and the equally unconstitutional federal Department of Education. However, as Napoleon Bonaparte once correctly observed: “The purely defensive is doomed to defeat.”
A Balanced-budget Amendment
Another dangerous scam in S. Con. Res. 11, calculated to deceive conservatives, is the decades-old proposal for a balanced-budget amendment (BBA). Section 6101 “POLICY STATEMENT ON BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT” states:
“It is the policy of this concurrent resolution that Congress should pass, and send to the States for their approval, a joint resolution amending the Constitution of the United States to require an annual balanced Federal budget.”
There are several things wrong with a BBA. First, the proposal implies that the Constitution, rather than Congress, is at fault for unconstitutional spending. Next, even with sufficient support (a two-thirds vote in both chambers is required), most amendments require many years for ratification. Most proposals also include exemptions from balancing the budget in times of crisis. And, of course, there is a phase-in period of several years.
By contrast, a mere majority in a determined House of Representatives, given sufficient informed public support, could start eliminating unconstitutional spending tomorrow, using its power of the purse.
The bottom line: The BBA proposals, requiring a 2/3 vote in both chambers, are a deceptive substitution for serious action. Indeed, Senator Enzi indirectly admits that the purpose of the proposal is show:
“This budget also calls on Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That point is especially important because we must show taxpayers that Congress is committed to a balanced budget and not to overspending, so we can make our government more effective.” [Emphasis added.]
Even more serious, the BBA proposals are a dangerous substitute for real action. Several groups, using the pretext that Congress won’t act to give us a BBA, are again calling on states to apply for a constitutional convention under Article V. Ignoring the opinions of many constitutional experts, these Article V convention proponents maintain that the states can limit a state-initiated convention to specific purposes. In reality, the whole Constitution it thrown up for grabs.
Repeal of ObamaCare
The budget resolution also makes it possible for a simple majority (not the normal 60 votes to permit consideration) in the Senate to pass a bill repealing ObamaCare. This “achievement” merely means that the GOP can pass another statement of opposition to ObamaCare that will be vetoed by the President.
But while the deficiencies in ObamaCare are regularly debated, particularly on Fox News, the prior socialist inroad in allowing the government to control the health care of seniors (Medicare) is accepted. Although everyone acknowledges that the exploding cost of Medicare is a problem, GOP leaders accept this intrusion, calling for reform, rather than working to phase out this improper function of the federal government:
“(b) Policy On Medicare Reform.—In the House of Representatives, it is the policy of this concurrent resolution to preserve the program for those in or near retirement and strengthen Medicare for future beneficiaries.”
In 2010, a recently elected President Obama, used the pretext of fighting the economic burden of recession, to push through a major advance in the socialist agenda — federally managed universal health care coverage.
Even though the GOP leadership has repeatedly decried the law (finding 6 in the budget resolution declares: “The President’s health care law is unaffordable, intrusive, overreaching, destructive, and unworkable”), the GOP-passed resolution still accepts ObamaCare’s unconstitutional expansion in federal responsibility.
The GOP now views the federal government as having responsibility to ensure universal coverage (even though GOP policy claims to oppose nationalization, at least temporarily):
(b) Policy On Promoting Real Health Care Reform.—
In the House of Representatives, it is the policy of this concurrent resolution that the President’s health care law should be fully repealed and real health care reform promoted in accordance with the following principles:
(2) AFFORDABILITY.—Real reform should be centered on ensuring that all Americans, no matter their age, income, or health status, have the ability to afford health care coverage. The health care delivery structure should be improved, and individuals should not be priced out of the health insurance market due to pre-existing conditions, but nationalized health care is not only unnecessary to accomplish this [it’s also a dangerous, unconstitutional power grab], it undermines the goal. Individuals should be allowed [by government] to join together voluntarily to pool risk through mechanisms such as Individual Membership Associations and Small Employer Membership Associations. [Emphasis and bracketed comments added.]
Of course, the GOP refusal, continued with this resolution, to not raise taxes or close supposed “tax loopholes” raised the opposition of Democrats wedded to socialist rhetoric. (All House and Senate Democrats voted against the resolution.)
Implicit in that rhetoric is the dangerous idea that it’s government’s job to achieve prosperity for the poor and middle class by managing the distribution of wealth. A recent House-passed measure to repeal the Federal Estate tax drew particular criticism. And so we don’t give credit to the Democrats for their opposition (i.e., we don’t score them on this one).
However, strong partisan wrestling matches merely obscure the fact that the dominant forces in both parties are leading America to disaster.