Issue: H.R. 3877, Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. Question: On Passage.
Result: Passed, 284 to 149, 0 not voting. Subsequently agreed to by the Senate (Senate Vote 262, 8-1-19). Became Public Law 116-37 (signed by the President, 8-2-19). GOP only scored.
Freedom First Society: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 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 House Republicans (65 out of 197) 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 timevoted Nay. We do not score the Democrats on this one, as the very few (16) 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 by a 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 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.
As examples of unjustified pressure to go along, consider these statements made during the pseudo debates:
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee: “Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 3877. I am proud to support this 2-year budget agreement, because the alternative, not having an agreement, is simply not an option. I want all Members to understand the importance of this bill in front of us. This deal keeps our economy on solid ground because the United States will avoid defaulting on our financial obligations….
“If this bill does not pass, the impending cuts will have a devastating impact on our national security. Our Constitution explicitly states that the Congress provides for the common defense. If we don’t pass this bill, we have failed to live up to our Constitutional responsibilities, and I am not willing to do that.”
Freedom First Society: The way to make Congress accountable to informed voters, rather than to the Establishment, is to organize grassroots pressure, amplified by booting the persistent big-spenders out. The public must not just be informed. It must act. It must give credible direction to Congress BETWEEN elections and then confirm that direction at election time.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Arkansas), Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee: “Mr. Speaker, one of the most fundamental duties of Congress is to fund the government.”
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee: “Mr. Speaker, it is crucially important that we pass this bill. The most fundamental responsibility of government is to fund the government and operate.”
Freedom First Society: We hear this excuse expressed over and over. The statement makes it sound as though Congress is supposed to fund the government out of their own pockets (that would be nice, if possible).
Unfortunately, the notion that Congress today is working in the interest of the American people is a fraud. The majority of our representatives are spending whatever they think will buy them the votes to get reelected — constitutional limitations be damned!
From News Reports
With careful reading, the news reports of the Bipartisan Budget Act support some instructive observations:
President Trump announced the deal on Twitter on Monday, but has faced pressure from conservatives to disavow it. When compared to the potential spending cuts, the deal would add $320 billion to federal spending over two years….
But Democrats said that the deal was well-received during a morning caucus presentation by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on the legislation.
“We had a whole presentation from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on how good this deal was, how far above expectations it was, what a great negotiator our Speaker is. No one stood up at all to oppose it,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a progressive who intends to vote for it. — The Hill (7-24-19) [Emphasis added.]
And just after the House vote, Roll Call (7-25-19) reported:
Conservatives have sharply criticized the deal, however, including two House factions that have been closely aligned with Trump, the Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy predicted most Republicans wouldn’t support the agreement, despite Trump’s backing.
“I don’t believe we’ll get half of our conference to support this,” the California Republican told reporters before the vote….
The legislation has been sharply criticized by outside conservative groups, who oppose its impact on deficits. Before the vote Thursday, FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs Jason Pye called the agreement “ludicrous.”
“There’s no question — Republican leadership shamelessly supporting a budget-busting deal and using the false fear of military atrophy as their cover is dishonest to Americans and disrespectful to our armed forces,” Pye said in a statement. [Emphasis ours.]
Freedom First Society: Note the report’s claim that outside conservative groups object to the deficits, likely true. But, as noted above, this is false leadership. The objection should be to continued unconstitutional programs. Just one example is the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), founded as a cabinet level department in 1965 and as part of President Johnson’s Great Society assault on the Constitution. The pressure to roll back these destructive usurpations has to come from an informed public.
And here’s a great example of how the public is being deceived with false leadership. The Hill (7-25-19) included this in its report on the budget deal:
Budget hawks this time around railed against the two-year budget deal….
Leon Panetta, a Defense secretary under former President Obama who now co-chairs the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, called for a bipartisan commission to address the debt.
“Both sides this week so easily agreeing to fiscal defeat isn’t bipartisanship, it is broken governance,” he said…. [Emphasis ours.]
But calling Leon Panetta or the Committee he co-chairs a budget hawk is extremely misleading. A long-used tactic of the Conspiracy is to control both sides of issues to prevent serious support for a truly responsible path. That seems to be the role of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Its board of directors include former members of Congress and the Executive Branch and even the Federal Reserve!
In addition, we object to the term “budget hawk,” making fiscal restraint sound like its just one flavor of interest. Is it okay not to be a budget hawk, perhaps instead a “budget dove,” or merely uninterested in budget issues? How about “honesty hawks,” or “law and order hawks”?
Our objection to the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019,” is not that, of itself, the Act is unconstitutional. We would agree that Congress has the authority to change previously set caps or debt ceilings. It’s the clear unconstitutional intent of this first step that’s the problem.
The next step is appropriation to the higher caps levels and spending without regard to a debt ceiling. Everyone understands that appropriators will assume they have a green light now to appropriate to the new levels, continuing unconstitutional spending as normal.
From the Congressional Record (7-25-19) — campaign statements masquerading as debate [Emphasis added.]:
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York), Chair of House Appropriations Committee: “Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 3877. For months, House Democrats have insisted on raising unworkable budget caps so Congress can responsibly fund our government and uphold our commitments to American families….. Instead of reckless cuts, Democrats were successful in securing the largest-ever increase in base funding above sequestration levels. With these more reasonable budget caps, we can undertake an orderly appropriations process to invest in critical domestic priorities for the people.”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), Minority Whip: “There are people that are running around right now trying to pit our Nation’s defense against balancing the Federal budget Mr. Speaker, in fact, it is a false choice because if you zeroed out the entire Department of Defense’s budget, which I hope no one would embrace, if you zeroed it out, you would still have a deficit. So, clearly, it is not the Department of Defense that is the problem….
“So we have got to get back to solving the real problems with deficits; and we all know where that is coming from, the mandatory side.”
Freedom First Society: No, the real problem with deficits is the unconstitutional side, in both mandatory and discretionary spending, both of which are controlled by Congress. It doesn’t matter where the constitutional discipline is first applied. It’s the same, necessary discipline. And eschewing that discipline for discretionary spending under the claim that the mandatory is a bigger problem just means avoiding the discipline to deal with either. Note also that mandatory spending includes spending for so-called entitlements, some of which is partially supported by special taxation.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee: “Mr. Speaker, it is crucially important that we pass this bill….
“Now, it is absolutely true that the debt and the deficit are still a problem. I know there are many people out there who say that it is not. I just don’t see how those numbers add up. You cannot continually spend more money than you take in before it becomes a problem. We need to responsibly address that issue.”
Freedom First Society: Yes, but responsibly addressing the issue requires that Congress not constantly kick the can down the road with the promise that some day, when it’s convenient, they’ll deal with the problem. That day will never happen if the public allows current politics to prevail.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), member Committee on Appropriations: “Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Bipartisan Budget Deal of 2019. Like many of my colleagues, there are parts of the deal I object to and parts I strongly support….
“I know many of my conservative friends are concerned about more deficit spending and adding to our $22 trillion debt. I share that concern, but we need to look at the full budget picture. Mandatory spending, if you include interest on the debt, now consumes 72 percent of the Federal budget. National defense actually accounts for 15.6 percent of the budget. That leaves only about 12 percent left in the pie. We cannot balance our budget on the back of 12 percent nondefense discretionary spending. The math does not work….
“The bill before us is not perfect. That is the nature of compromise.
Freedom First Society: Perhaps, but there are limits to acceptable compromise. Congressmen should not accept compromise on their oath to defend the Constitution, but they do so regularly.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), member Committee on Appropriations: “We will have to make hard choices as we work with the Senate to allocate these funds among the 12 subcommittee bills, but as an appropriator, I intimately understand Congress’ top responsibility is to keep the ship of state running, ensuring an open, funded, and fully functional government of the United States. I also know from experience that the full faith and credit of our government can never be questioned.
“Every one of our constituents deserves this recognition from their elected Member, and this agreement moves Congress past the devastating threats imposed under the Budget Control Act of 2011. Thank goodness. It avoids deep, automatic cuts that would devastate government’s ability to help the American people and meet our obligations to them, including the most vulnerable.”
Freedom First Society: Clearly, Representative Kaptur has a different vision for the role of the federal government than guided America’s Founders. The states did not create the federal government to provide welfare to their citizens.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), Ranking Member of House Armed Services Committee: “I know Members can find some excuse about what is in the bill they don’t like or what is not in the bill that they wish it were. Any sort of legislation that is a result of compromise between two parties, two Houses of Congress, two branches of government, is going to yield that sort of result.
“But, Mr. Speaker, we cannot forget that the first function of government us to provide for the common defense; and the Nation and, especially, the men and women who serve and their families depend upon us doing our job under the Constitution. Article I, section 8 says it is our job to raise and support, provide and maintain. This bill helps us fulfill that responsibility, and it should be passed.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), Majority Leader: “But this agreement was made possible by virtue of, in my view, the fact that we passed 10 appropriations bills to fund 96 percent of the government before the end of June. That hasn’t been done before.”
Freedom First Society: Before Rep. Hoyer and House Democrats get too much praise for that “accomplishment,” it should be recognized that the 9 of the 10 bills were passed without a budget, in two minibuses with zero Republican support, and no expectation or prospect of becoming law.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Speaker of the House: “Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman [Rep. John A. Yarmuth] for yielding, and I thank him for his great work as the chair of the Budget Committee. He knows better than all of us that our Federal budget should be a statement of our national values and that what is important to us as a Nation should be reflected in that budget….
“We are securing robust funding for crucial domestic priorities, as I said. We have always insisted on parity in increases between defense and nondefense. We are pleased that our increase in the nondefense budget actually exceeds the parity number on defense by $10 billion over the next 2 years. We are pleased to be able to say that we have secured an increase of more than $100 billion in the budget cap for domestic priorities since the President took office.”
Freedom First Society: Not surprisingly, Rep. Pelosi misrepresents the purpose for the federal government. It was not created to care for the American people or to take the place of the State governments. Most of the unconstitutional growth of government, and the opportunity for deceptive socialist power grabs, is on the nondefense side.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Arkansas), Ranking Member of House Budget Committee and member of Appropriations Committee: “While I support what we are doing today because I recognize the importance of getting chaos and uncertainty off the table for the reasons already stated in this debate, I am disappointed that the agreement was hammered out by basically four people, four plus one, the administration and four Members of the Congress referenced in Article I, Section 8. That is our job….
“Here we are today, relying on an agreement hammered out by leaders of both parties in both Chambers with a representative from the administration. To me, Mr. Speaker, that flies in the face of what Article I, Section 8 says it should be like. Again, I hope and pray that, over time, once we put this issue behind us, realizing that mandatory spending is growing at 10 times the rate of discretionary spending, the very fight that we are having today on this floor, maybe we can get back to regular order, do some legitimate budget process reform so Members like John Yarmuth and myself can work together jointly to produce budgets, engage in debates on the floor of the people’s House, and arrive at outcomes that probably we are all going to agree has stuff in it we like and stuff in it we don’t like. That is the way the Framers intended this Chamber to be. I am hopeful that we will get there eventually.”
Freedom First Society: Rep. Womack makes an important observation re the dominance of party leaders. But his wishful thinking ignores reality — the reality of Insider control on behalf of a totalitarian agenda. Moreover, Womack is flat wrong by implying that the Framers intended the House to govern the nation in a vacuum. The Framers gave us the People’s House so that the people could control their government. Wishful thinking won’t return control to the people, particularly to an informed people, where it needs to reside.
Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-Kentucky), chair of the House Budget Committee and the official sponsor of H.R. 3877: “The United States did not become an economic powerhouse and world leader by accident. Throughout our history, we made strong investments in our people, our economy, and our security that have allowed us to innovate and grow, while promoting broad-based economic opportunity. This agreement will build on that legacy by raising the caps and lifting the debt ceiling, allowing Congress to move our Nation forward without leaving our communities behind.”
Freedom First Society: Such audacity is mindboggling. The United States became an economic powerhouse because government was limited and the people were free to invest and innovate and do great things. Government was not and cannot be the engine of our progress; more government undermines that engine — the accomplishments of a free people that can keep the fruits of their labors and invest those fruits, free of government interference.