Freedom First Society

Issue: H.R. 4378, Making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2020, and for other purposes. Question: On Passage.

Result: Passed, 301 to 123, 10 not voting. Subsequently agreed to by the Senate w/o changes (Senate Vote 311, 9-26-19). Became Public Law 116-59 (signed by the President, 9-27-19).  GOP and Democrats scored.

Freedom First Society: H.R. 4378 extends appropriations at current levels until November 21, 2019. At that time, Congress will seek to appropriate to the limits of the irresponsible Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (see our scorecard for House Roll Call 511, 7-25-19). H.R. 4378 also extends several programs set to expire that could and should have been considered individually without an extension.

Congress needs a massive shift in direction to begin rolling back unconstitutional programs and spending. As expected, H.R. 4378 merely perpetuates big, unconstitutional, out-of-control government.

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):
Shown Here:
Passed House (09/19/2019)
Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020, and Health Extenders Act of 2019

This bill provides FY2020 continuing appropriations to federal agencies through November 21, 2019.

It is known as a continuing resolution (CR) and prevents a government shutdown that would otherwise occur when FY2020 begins on October 1, 2019, if the 12 regular appropriations bills that fund the federal government for FY2020 have not been enacted.

The CR funds most projects and activities at the FY2019 levels with several exceptions that provide funding flexibility and additional appropriations to various programs.

Additionally, the CR extends several programs that are scheduled to expire at the end of FY2019, including
• several health programs,
• the National Flood Insurance Program,
• the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and related programs,
• several authorities related to immigration,
• the Calfed Bay-Delta Authorization Act,
• the Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity,
• the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and
• the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The bill also includes a provision that permits the Department of Agriculture to continue making payments to farmers affected by retaliatory tariffs by accelerating reimbursements to the Commodity Credit Corporation for certain net realized losses sustained in FY2019.

Freedom First Society Analysis: Note: H. Res. 568, the rule governing consideration of the main H.R. 4378 bill, prohibited amendments during one hour of authorized general “debate.”

The one hour of general debate was controlled by the Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-New York), and the Ranking [GOP] Member of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas).

Although the majority of Republicans voted against the Continuing Resolution (76 yeas to 119 nays), not one of those opposing was given or accepted an opportunity to speak. So much for what is called a “debate. The one hour was divided among representatives, mostly appropriators, who argued in support of the Continuing Resolution. So the debate did nothing to inform the American people as to why so many of their representatives opposed the measure.

Shared Priorities?
In her opening “debate” remarks, Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowy (D-NY) claimed:

This legislation avoids controversial policy provisions that have slowed down the appropriations process and that, if included, would jeopardize passage….

At the same time, the CR contains provisions that reflect shared priorities, including allowing the Census Bureau to ramp up preparations for the 2020 decennial Census, extending funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for another year, ensuring that FEMA disaster relief can be spent as quickly as needed to effectively respond to disasters, ensuring the Department of Agriculture can operate rural water and waste loan programs, and extending the National Flood Insurance Program and authorization for the Export-Import Bank. [Emphasis added.]

There were reasons why Congress didn’t make certain programs permanent, requiring them instead to be reviewed periodically and to expire if they no longer had support. Each of the programs set to expire (see Rep. Lowey’s list or the larger list in the CRS Summary above) should have been considered individually on its own merits. Instead, the entire group is extended here until November 21, 2019 with virtually no accountability. Yet some have limited support. We look next at one of the most glaring travesties.

Export-Import Bank
In recent years, the “Bank” had become the target of weak conservative opposition, which merely characterized the Bank as a “bad idea”, as “promoting corporate welfare,” or as “crony capitalism.” In reality, the Export-Import Bank has served the internationalist Conspiracy for decades as a workhorse, funding America’s enemies, including Communist China, and advancing internationalist objectives.

The previous day (9-18-19), The Hill reported why some of the Republicans may have opposed the bill:

House Democrats unexpectedly pulled the bill from rules consideration on Tuesday night over disagreements with Republicans about several issues, including how the extension dealt with health care and aid to farmers affected by the trade war with China.

Ignoring the Constitution
Regardless of the reason why individual representatives opposed the Continuing Resolution, our strong objection is that it was not designed to buy time to roll back unconstitutional spending. No such effort was underway.

Until there are plans to implement that critical rollback, no congressman should approve any significant appropriations measure. Otherwise, they are violating their oath of office to uphold the Constitution.

Appropriations Committee member David P. Joyce (R-Ohio) challenged this view: “Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill, despite my disappointment that a continuing resolution is necessary at this point in time. The alternative is a government shutdown, which would only serve to hurt the American people by depriving them of critical services, not to mention wasting their money.” [Emphasis added.]

No, Rep. Joyce, there are other alternatives — they just lack majority support and a little advance commitment. We doubt that 119 of Rep. Joyce’s GOP colleagues wanted the government to shutdown. But many could not support out-of-control government as amplified by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (also opposed by a majority of the House GOP — 132 reps.). Their nay vote should be a signal to change course.

While most reps merely ignore the Constitution, some try to justify their support of unconstitutional government by claiming an alleged responsibility of Congress to maintain all government operations. No, Congress has the responsibility to determine which operations should be maintained, provided they are authorized by the Constitution. Consider this “debate” comment by Appropriations Committee member Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska), a “necessary” supporter of the Continuing Resolution:

Mr. Speaker, as Ranking Member Granger noted, we find ourselves in a difficult position today, so we are deliberating a continuing resolution instead of passing full-year appropriations. It is important, though, that we follow our constitutional duty to maintain government operations.

The Compromise Scam
The ostensible virtue in bipartisan compromise is a destructive scam. The position that appropriation legislation has to be a compromise with socialists provides a sure road to our destruction.

The Founding Fathers gave the House the power of the purse so that an informed public could use its leverage with their elected representatives to give the federal government its marching orders.

Rather than consensus, good government now demands confrontation. Instead of seeking to make the socialists happy, our representatives should be using the power of the purse strategically to force cuts in unconstitutional spending.

Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey argued: “By extending these programs and government funding through November 21, this CR will allow additional time to negotiate our differences and enact responsible long-term funding for priorities that help make our country safer and stronger.” But her argument contains a serious error. Congress has no recent history of enacting “responsible long-term funding” and giving Congress more time will not change that failure.

Ranking Committee Member Kay Granger expressed similar thoughts: “I would much rather be here today in support of full appropriations bills, but I have confidence that, with more time, we will be able to come together to pass full-year appropriations bills that the President can sign into law.” But the President’s acceptance of the compromise should not be the standard for responsible legislating.

Appropriations Committee member Marci Kaptur (D-Ohio) also retailed the compromise myth: “Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this short-term resolution and demand our Republican colleagues get serious about reasonable expectations in a divided government. Let us compromise and let us govern as the people of the United States expect.”

We conclude with this example from Appropriations Committee member Henry Cuellar (D-Texas): “Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairwoman Lowey for her leadership and her expertise on the Appropriations Committee. I also thank my fellow Texan, Ms. Granger, for her work and her leadership on this. And I thank both of them for working in a bipartisan way because, again, in support of this continuing resolution, we are here to build consensus, find common ground, and keep government working for our people. We need to set aside partisanship and bias, and think about and vote for what is best for our country. This measure allows us to continue the conversation while we keep government open and functioning.”

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