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Senate Vote: 262     Vote Date: Aug 1st, 2019

Issue: H.R. 3877, Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019.  Question: On Passage.

Result:  Passed 67 yeas to 28 nays, 5 not voting.  Previously passed in the House (House Roll Call 511, 7-25-19).  Became Public Law 116-37 (signed by the President, 8-2-19).

Freedom First Society:  The Bipartisan Budget Act suspends the debt ceiling until August 1, 2021 and raises the caps on discretionary federal spending by $324 billion over the next two fiscal years.

This compromise worked out between the White House and the liberal Left to continue bloated government as usual was so outrageously lacking in fiscal restraint that only a minority of Republicans (65 out of 197) in the House bowed to the pressure to support it, whereas it was enthusiastically received by the Democrats, including several of the “Progressives.”   Of course, rolling back massive unconstitutional spending and programs wasn’t even on the table.

We must give some credit to the many Republicans who this time voted Nay.   We do not score the Democrats on this one, as many of their colleagues who voted nay clearly did so for the wrong reason.

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 (excerpted from the Congressional Research Services Summary): 

“Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 

“This bill increases discretionary spending limits, suspends the debt limit, and modifies budget enforcement procedures.

“The bill increases the FY2020 and FY2021 discretionary spending limits for defense and nondefense spending. The bill also (1) specifies limits for Overseas Contingency Operations funding, which is exempt from discretionary spending limits; and (2) requires the FY2020 discretionary spending limits to be adjusted to accommodate specified funding for the 2020 Census.

“The bill suspends the public debt limit through July 31, 2021. On August 1, 2021, the limit will be increased to accommodate obligations issued during the suspension period.

Freedom First Society Analysis:  Testifying, before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee on July 11, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned:

I think it’s essential that Congress raise the debt ceiling in a timely way, by which I mean in a way that allows the United States government to pay all of its bills when and as they’re due. That is essential.Any other outcome is unthinkable.  [Emphasis added.] —

We’re constantly told that it’s unthinkable for the government not to pay its debts on time.  But apparently it’s not unthinkable to spend beyond our means and incur ever-increasing debt we cannot afford.

It’s important to recognize the orchestrated media betrayal — the option of serious federal rollbacks is not allowed in the “public discussion.”  The public rarely hears from “experts” warning us that we must curb unconstitutional spending to avoid bankrupting the nation. Or explaining that eliminating such spending would lead to unprecedented national prosperity and even improved opportunity for the recipients of “unconstitutional” government welfare?

Although the media reported strong political opposition, the real problem— unconstitutional government was not mentioned.  If the federal government were limited by the Constitution, in normal times there would be no serious problem with deficits (and at current tax levels, there would be surpluses to begin retiring the national debt).

Instead, the public’s attention is channeled into minor issues, such as waste (inevitable at these levels of government) or just to lack of fiscal restraint/responsibility.   But, again, the real problem that must be grappled with is government doing what the Constitution prohibits it from doing.  (Note: If the Constitution doesn’t authorize the federal government to do it, then it’s prohibited, as emphasized by the 10th amendment.)

The Compromise Trap
The Insiders controlling the Establishment media would have us believe that bipartisan compromise is a necessary virtue.  But compromise among socialists is no path to freedom and prosperity.   Instead, an informed public must force the House to use its power of the purse to eliminate unconstitutional programs and spending.

This power is poorly recognized today.  James Madison, often recognized as the “father of the Constitution,” emphasized in Federalist No. 58 that a simple majority in the House alone has the power to bring government under control:

The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of government.  They, in a word, hold the purse — that powerful instrument … [for reducing] … all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of 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.

The House hasn’t exercised that authority in recent times because no simple majority has, or can acquire on its own, the desire and backbone to do so. Such a majority would have to stand up to the Conspiracy’s grip on the parties and withstand its dominating influence on public opinion.

Realistically, the necessary backbone must come from an informed, engaged electorate following new, principle-based leadership, provided through a new channel of communications.

Bankrupt Bipartisan Politics
Of particular urgency, we must wake up our fellow citizens to the reality that BOTH parties are happy to give us more of the poison, i.e., even greater unconstitutional spending, to address the debt ceiling crises:

[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi spoke with [Treasury Secretary] Mnuchin twice on Thursday, and she said she’s “personally convinced” that Congress should act on the debt limit before the [July 26th] recess — only if accompanied bya deal to raise the austere discretionary spending caps for next year’s appropriations bills and possibly the following year’s. [Emphasis added] — Roll Call, 7-12-19

Of course, now that the caps are raised, appropriators will assume they have a green light to spend that much!

Indeed, both parties proclaim their partisanship while in reality negotiating to continue business as usual.  Phasing out fedgov’s massive unconstitutional spending is simply not on the negotiating table:

McConnell and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have stated consistently throughout the spring that they want to reach a two-year deal to put the appropriations process on stable footing and raise the debt limit beyond next year’s elections.  Shelby on Thursday said that is still his and McConnell’s preference….

“There’s no reason why we can’t do it all,” said Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Why don’t we just sit down, pass the appropriations bills, pass the debt limit or do them all?” — The Hill, 7-12-19

Following House passage of the budget deal, The Hill (7-25-19) reported the support of GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Considering the circumstances of divided government, this is a good deal.”

The Principled Position
Those Congressmen seeking to act responsibly should set the example by refusing to vote for any increase in the debt ceiling unless coupled with a reliable commitment to phase out unconstitutional spending.  Of course, there is currently insufficient support in Congress for such a responsible move.  Members of Freedom First Society seek to change that climate.

In the meantime, representatives and senators should resist the claim of Congressional leaders that continuing business as usual is the only alternative to an unacceptable government shutdown and damaging credit default.  In fact, business as usual is the only alternative the leaders are offering, but that is the leaders’ fault.  The leaders should be forced to take responsibility for not offering alternatives that can be supported.

One Senator Who Spoke Out
Prior to the Senate vote on H.R. 3877 as introduced in the House, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) took the opportunity to offer an amendment in the nature of a substitute.   Although we strongly disagree with his proposed amendment, which misdirects attention by requiring Congress to submit a dangerous balanced-budget amendment to the states, we are pleased to report the Senator’s criticism of big-government, in particular of big-government Republicans [Emphasis added]:

Madam President, some say it is irresponsible not to raise  the debt ceiling. Well, true fiscal conservatives say it is  irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without any reform of our  profligate spending ways. To allow the debt ceiling to go up an  infinite amount — as much as Congress can possibly spend and borrow over  a nearly 2-year period — is fiscally irresponsible and has never been seen in our history. This may well be the most fiscally irresponsible thing we have done in the history of the United States….

What is irresponsible is a Congress that  believes it is Santa Claus and that it can be everything to everyone and that everything is free.   At least the Democrats are honest. The Democrats don’t care about  deficits, and they will tell you that to your face. The Democrats, in  fact, are falling all over themselves to propose more than $50 trillion in new spending in addition to the trillion-dollar annual deficits.  They want to add $50 trillion in spending.

Yet it is not just the Democrats. The Republicans are also guilty — at least the Big Government Republicans who will vote for this monstrous  addition of debt.  Many of the supporters of this debt deal ran around  their States for years and complained that President Obama was spending too much and borrowing too much. These same Republicans now — the whole  disingenuous lot of them — will wiggle their way to the front of the  spending trough to vote for as much or more debt than President Obama  ever added. Get this. All of those who said the debt was bad under President  Obama will today snuggle their way up, wiggle their way up to the  spending trough, and they will do exactly what they condemned under President Obama. Shame.  Shame on the politicians who have campaigned as conservatives but who have governed as big spenders.  

America, wake up. The two parties are often one. The two parties that  ostensibly fight are in reality one party of big spenders, separated only by where they want to spend the money.   The media reports of a lack of compromise. The opposite is true.  There is too much compromise, and the compromise is always more debt,  more porkbarrel spending, and more burden for our kids.

Freedom First Society:  In this episode of the eternal Freedom Fight it is a challenge to recognize adequate leadership.  Unfortunately, the libertarian Senator from Kentucky doesn’t offer it.   We are facing a Conspiracy for totalitarian power.  Ignoring that Conspiracy’s influence and agenda is a surefire prescription to defeat.

As with many politicians of the libertarian stripe, Senator Paul is excellent at railing against profligate spending, while he prefers to stay in the politically safe zone that ignores the real drivers of that spending.  But that spending won’t be stopped by superior debate or by appealing to Congress to come to its senses.

We are also disappointed that Senator Paul seems content to continue unconstitutional spending and programs as long as the budget balances.

Senator Paul continues:

Yet there is another path. There is another form of compromise. Instead of compromising to raise spending for guns and butter, we could  compromise to hold the line on all spending. Just a mere 2-percent cut  in spending would balance the budget over a 5-year period–1 or 2  pennies out of a dollar. You get to spend 98 percent of what you spent  last year, and we balance the budget. Yet that is never enough because  these people are not honest with you. They are not willing to hold the  line. They want more, more, more.

More spending, though, means more  debt, and that is what we are getting. So what I offer today is a compromise.   The right would have to deal with less military spending. The right says: Oh, we don’t have enough. Perhaps the mission is too big for the  budget. It isn’t a lack of money. We spend more money on the military  than the next 10 countries combined. We spend more money on the  military than all of Europe spends. It isn’t a lack of money; it is that the mission is too large. [Senator Paul weakly prefers to ignore the Internationalist agenda driving our involvement and accept the mission as presented to the public.]

Why do we have troops in 50 of 55  African countries? Why are we involved in every civil war on the globe? We need to question what our mission is. The left would have to accept  less welfare spending or at least hold the line and get 98 percent of  what it spent last year on welfare. The right would have to spend 98  percent of what it spent on the military last year. Guess what. We  would balance the budget.   My amendment is called cut, cap, and balance. When the balanced  budget is passed and sent to the States, when spending caps are in  place and when spending has been cut, then and only then would we raise  the debt ceiling. This is the only responsible way of dealing with  this. [We strongly disagree, as explained above.]