Freedom First Society

Issue: H.R. 6157, Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 6157; A bill making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes. (It now also includes the Labor-Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill and a Continuing Resolution.)  Question:  On the Conference Report.

Result:  Agreed to in Senate, 93 to 7.  (Agreed to in House, 9-26-18, House Roll Call 405).  Became Public Law 115-245 (signed by the President, 9-28-18). GOP and Democrats scored.

Freedom First Society:  America’s military readiness and support is a proper role of the federal government. However, the Senate version (see Senate Vote 193, 8-23-18) and this House-Senate compromise appended appropriations for Labor/Health and Human Services/Education to the Defense bill (these latter appropriations are almost entirely an unconstitutional usurpation of authority).  This minibus combination brought virtually all of the big-government Senate Democrats on board and the same for the House (only 5 House Democrats joined 56 House Republicans to vote nay).

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:  


Title I—Military Personnel
Title II—Operation and Maintenance
Title III—Procurement
Title IV—Research, Development, Test and Evaluation
Title V—Revolving and Management Funds
Title VI—Other Department of Defense Programs
Title VII—Related Agencies
Title VIII—General Provisions
Title IX—Overseas Contingency Operations


Title I—Department of Labor
Title II—Department of Health and Human Services
Title III—Department of Education
Title IV—Related Agencies
Title V—General Provisions


Sec. 105:  Unless otherwise provided for in this Act or in the applicable appropriations Act for fiscal year 2019, appropriations and funds made available and authority granted pursuant to this Act shall be available until whichever of the following first occurs:

(1) the enactment into law of an appropriation for any project or activity provided for in this Act;
(2) the enactment into law of the applicable appropriations Act for fiscal year 2019 without any provision for such project or activity; or
(3) December 7, 2018.

Analysis:  Our analysis of the House-Senate compromise measure makes three objections:

1. Collectivism is Alive and Well in Both Parties
Leadership of both parties promote the idea that their principal job is to spend money in a timely manner and that the American taxpayer is counting on Congress to do so.   The appropriators often make it sound as though they are paying for these appropriations out of their own pockets.

Moreover, they tout all of the ostensible good things government can do on our behalf (collectivism), while completely ignoring the damage to middle class opportunity from a bloated out-of-control government.  Yet this unrestrained spending on unconstitutional programs threatens to bankrupt our nation and cost us our freedom.

The breakthrough American principle of constitutionally limited government is totally foreign to congressional appropriators. Those readers familiar with the U.S. Constitution will see below that senatorsare boasting of federal involvement in numerous areas where there is simply no constitutional authorization, nor should there be.

2. Bipartisan Compromise Should Not Be Extolled As a Virtue
Legislative leaders and the Establishment media constantly seek toconvince the public that political compromise is a necessary virtue.  But the real interests of the American people, and the unborn in particular, are not party to the compromise.

Congressmen should not compromise on fundamental principles, such as their oath to defend the Constitution.  And some don’t.  Instead, if there were a sufficient faction in either branch committed to restoring limited government according to the Constitution, that faction should use the “power of the purse” to play hardball with the socialists.  (And true regular order, funding parts of the government separately, is necessary in order to play hardball and take the sting out of the modern socialist threat of a total government shutdown.)

Responsible congressmen should vote on principle, even if they are not currently in the majority.  Unless some stake out the principled position, as a few are doing (see Scorecard), there is no hope of becoming the majority and averting disaster.

Those who extoll compromise are often employing a double standard.  Here, Senate appropriators refused to compromise on so-called “Poison pills” — attempts to address significant policy problems by attaching them to unrelated appropriation measures.  But appropriators deemed it okay to compromise on the Constitution!

In fact, Senate appropriators saw no problem in attaching the largely unconstitutional and unrelated Labor-Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill — the very definition of a “Poison Pill” — to the Defense Appropriations bill.

3. They Compromised to the Left
The House-Senate “compromise” boosting spending for unconstitutional programs brought the big-government Democrats on board. Conservative Republicans, including some constitutionalists, were left out in the cold by “their” leadership.

Senate debates (from the Congressional Record, 9-18-18) [Emphasis added.]
We support the above three objections with excerpts from the floor “debates” (as reported in the Congressional Record).

However, we must also point out that the so-called House and Senate debates were not really debates at all.  This is often the case today.   Although there was opposition in both the House and Senate to the conference agreement, only in the Senate did one opponent of the measure (Senator Mike Lee of Utah, see below) take the podium to give his reasons for opposition.   The “debate” time was divided primarily between leading Republican and Democrat appropriators who embraced the House-Senate, Democrat-Republican “compromise.’

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), member Appropriations Committee:  “Mr. President, today we are about to mark a milestone.  Maybe it wouldn’t be a milestone for any other group except for the U.S. Congress; that milestone is getting a  significant part of our work done on time.   This will be the first time in 22 years that we have passed the Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill before the start of  the fiscal year. Just a few days ago was the first time in 11 years  this bill has even been debated on the Senate floor. So we are heading in a good direction.

This is a bipartisan agreement. It isn’t exactly the bill that I  would prefer; it isn’t exactly what my ranking member Senator Murray  would like to have done here. But working with our House colleagues and with Senator Shelby and Senator Leahy, we have actually done the job  this year that the appropriating committee is supposed to do, which is  to appropriate the money — to decide how to spend the people’s money  that we have been entrusted with….

“This is one of the most difficult bills to negotiate. It is 30 percent of all nondefense spending. It is, interestingly, combined this  year with the defense bill. So you have the No. 1 priority of the  Federal Government — to defend the country — as part of the bill, which  is 50 percent of all the discretionary spending, and then another 12  percent or so with the Labor-HHS bill. Sixty-two percent of all of the  spending the government will do that we have a choice in — that is not  mandatory spending — happens in the bill the Senate is voting on today….

“Today’s bill, I think, reflects the priorities of both sides of the Capitol and both sides of the aisle. We fulfilled the commitments the leaders made in the February budget agreement to keep the extraneous  issues off these bills that fund the government. It also fulfills the President’s demand that he doesn’t want any more omnibus spending  bills. He wants these bills in small packages that we can debate and he can look at.  It invests in national priorities, like fighting the opioid epidemic, expanding medical research, promoting college affordability, and  strengthening our workforce.

“This bill accomplishes a huge goal that I, Senator Murray, Senator Durbin, Senator Alexander, and others have had  for several years now, which is to get back, fully committed, to health research funding, the NIH grant process that to a great extent had gone into a stagnant, no-growth mode for over a decade….

We have money to help people in schools to be ready to learn and to  be prepared for careers and training. Certainly, the apprenticeship  programs are programs that Senator Murray has advocated effectively for, both in this bill and on the floor. The bill includes an increase for Head Start — again, getting kids ready to go to school — more title I money to support students in low-income schools and help them meet challenging State economic or academic standards. There is an increase for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, so students with disabilities have more Federal encouragement, even though more of that burden is still borne locally than was ever  thought possible when the IDEA was passed.   There is more funding for academic enrichment grants and charter schools, impact aid for dedicated, evidence-based STEM education  programs, and for career and technical programs.”

Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington State), member Appropriations Committee: “Mr. President, I thank my colleague Senator Blunt and  echo his comments this morning. I come to the floor to urge our  colleagues to support this conference report.   I do thank Chairman Shelby, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairman  Frelinghuysen, and Ranking Member Lowey, as well as Leaders McConnell  and Schumer. Because of their hard work and leadership, we have been able to work together across the aisle and pass bills under regular order in a way that we have been unable to do for many years.

Freedom First Society: Passage of a minibus is not regular order (individual votes on each of the 12 regular appropriations measures).  The primary reason that the leadership combines appropriation measures into a minibus, rather than allowing votes on each individual measure, is to provide protective coloration so that congressmen can support the bad with the good.

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah): “Mr. President, I am a Republican because I am a  conservative. I am a conservative because I believe the Constitution  and the ideals that it asserts on behalf of the American people are worth protecting, worth defending, even when they are untimely, even when they are unpopular, and especially for the vulnerable, for the marginalized, and for the forgotten among us.

“Equal rights, equal opportunity, equal justice under the law, equal dignity under God — we fail as Americans when we violate these ideals, when we neglect them to whatever degree, when we exclude some number of  our neighbors from their God-given share of our common inheritance,  when we declare in the interest of expedience and in defiance of our  own national creed that some people somehow are less equal than others.

“Such was the cruelty of our Nation through our laws, long-visited on  African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, and ethnic minorities,  on women, on the disabled, and on religious minorities, including  religious minorities like my own forebears as members of the Church of  Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   Happily, this is no longer the case. Happily, all of these groups — who, taken together, comprise the vast majority of all Americans — were  at different times in our history affirmatively brought under the  protection of our laws. This work of inclusion, of expanding the circle of legal and constitutional protection, was not a natural, organic,  spontaneous, evolutionary process; it was the product of hard work — the  work of vigilant citizens, activists, and lawmakers who affirmatively,  aggressively, painstakingly advanced the cause of justice at every  opportunity, even against the entrenched forces of the political status quo.   Republicans in this Congress have undertaken such efforts on behalf  of certain priorities — in particular, the tax relief and spending  increases that are poised to yield a budget deficit of nearly $1 trillion this year.

“But no such legislative progress has been achieved advancing the  right to life nor the plight of those denied it. For the second  straight year of unified Republican governance — unified pro-life governance Congress’s annual spending bills will include no new reforms protecting unborn children or getting Federal taxpayers out of  the abortion business. The House version of this Health and Human Services spending bill included multiple reforms. It denied taxpayer funds to the largest  abortion provider in the country, Planned Parenthood. It eliminated  title X family planning grants, which cross-subsidize abortion  providers. It prohibited Federal funding of research on aborted fetal  tissue. It included the Conscience Protection Act protecting pro-life people  and groups from funding discrimination. None of these modest,  commonsense spending reforms survived the House-Senate negotiations — none of them. None was made a priority by the people empowered to set  the priorities.   The authors of this bill defend their $1.3 trillion compromise. And  of course, this being Washington, I know, as is always the case, that  in this case, it could always be worse. But before this bill passes with an overwhelming bipartisan supermajority as its base of support — despite it being mostly unread by its supporters — someone ought to speak up for the Americans whom this legislation conspicuously leaves behind.

“The best measure of any government or any policy or proposal can be  measured according to its impact on the least among us. Too often  today, Washington acts as though “the least among us” refers to our  most vulnerable incumbents rather than our most vulnerable  constituents. This $1.3 trillion spending bill exemplifies that very confusion and fails that very test. Under this bill, neither the unborn nor taxpayers are any more protected from the abortion industry than they were under President Obama and a unified Democratic Congress.

“I understand that fighting on contentious issues comes with a cost. I  understand that it is not easy. But other things come with a cost too.  It is not just this that comes with a cost — so, too, does not fighting on them, especially in the rare moments when we could win. This bill represents a significant opportunity missed — and missed at a time when we can’t be sure how many more we will be given going forward, how many more opportunities like this one we might have.  Some causes are worth fighting for, even in defeat — the God-given  equal rights and the dignity of all human beings paramount among them.   The arc of history may, as I hope, bend toward life, but only if we  bend it. I oppose this legislation, but I do so neither in anger nor in  sadness; rather, I do so in hope, looking forward to another bill,  another time in the not-too-distant future, one that stands up for  those Americans who asked nothing more than the chance to one day stand up for themselves. I yield the floor.”

Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee:  “Mr. President, I want to thank my colleagues,  particularly Leaders McConnell and Schumer and Vice Chairman Leahy for  their help in moving this package. The conference report before the Senate accelerates the rebuilding of America’s military and provides our men and women in uniform with the largest pay increase in nearly a decade.

“It also increases NIH’s budget by $2 billion and provides  critical resources to combat the opioid epidemic.And, it contains no  poison pill riders.   On the whole, the conference report tracks very closely with the  Senate version of this package, which passed by a vote of 85 to 7. I  hope it will receive the same level of support today and urge my  colleagues to vote yes.”  

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), member Appropriations Committee: “The defense bill is paired with the Labor, Health and Human Services,  and Education bill this year, which includes another $2 billion funding increase for medical research at the National Institutes of Health.  This will be the fourth year in a row that Congress has provided the  NIH with at least a 5-percent budget increase. Every NIH institute and center will see their budgets increase, but there are also noteworthy  increases for Alzheimer’s disease and cancer research. I wish we could have given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a bigger increase, but I am pleased with what we were able to accomplish here, including the continued investment— with an  additional $5 million in fiscal year 2019 — for the Open Textbooks Pilot to help save college students money on textbook costs…..

“In conclusion, the outcome of much of this bill shows what we can  accomplish when Democrats and Republicans work together.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), ranking Democrat on Appropriations Committee:  “Mr. President, the Senator from Alabama and I have been friends for decades. Our wives have been friends, as the Presiding  Officer knows. We have different political philosophies, but we join  together in wanting to make the Senate work the way it should work and the way it used to work. We have done that in these appropriations bills. It means that the Senator from Alabama has had to decline some  things in this bill that he might have liked otherwise, but I have had  to do the same. That is why we are here today.  The two bills in the package before us — the Defense bill and the  Labor-HHS-Education bill — are a product of hard work and bipartisan  cooperation.I am pleased that those of us working together have been  able to work out the differences between the House and Senate bills. It  goes way beyond the procedures, way beyond working together.   These bills make important investments not only in our national security but also in the future of our country for us, our children,  and our grandchildren. They demonstrate the importance of the bipartisan budget agreement we reached earlier this year.

“The Labor-HHS-Education bill makes new investments in healthcare and education. We increase funding for the National Institutes of Health, the jewel that we have here in this country. We invest in working families by improving access to childcare and promoting college affordability. We provide new resources to combat the opioid epidemic — something that hits every single State represented in this body….

“We never want to fund the government by continuing resolution; that is inefficient and actually wastes money. That is why Chairman Shelby and I have worked so hard to get the appropriations process back on track. We have more work to do. We are still in  conference on a four-bill minibus….

“Most of the funding issues  have been resolved. We do have some controversial poison pill riders.  We shouldn’t delay this package over unrelated policy matters that have no place on must-pass spending bills. Get the poison pills out and pass  the bills.   There are four bills — the Interior bill, the Financial Services bill, the Agriculture bill, and the Transportation-HUD bill. These are  programs that are important to the American people. They should not be  frozen at fiscal year 2018 funding levels — not even for a few months.”

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