New Short-Term Spending Bill Would Continue to Hamper the Military

Lawmakers are discussing the possibility of passing yet another continuing resolution on Jan. 19 to keep the government from shutting down.

If another continuing resolution comes to fruition, it will be the fourth one since the fiscal year started back on Oct. 1. As of now, we have already passed more than one-quarter of the fiscal year, but the federal government has been unable to agree on appropriations allocation and has instead relied on temporary measures.

These resolutions are specially damaging to how the Department of Defense operates and defends the nation. This would come at a time when our forces are under considerable stress.

In recent years, our military has suffered substantial deterioration. As described by Heritage Foundation senior fellow Dakota Wood, “It’s too small for its workload, underfunded to repair and replace equipment that is rapidly wearing out, and ill-served by obsolescent infrastructure at its ports, bases, and airfields.”

Continuing resolutions come with a prohibition against the department starting new programs or changing the production quantity of ongoing programs. The department identified close to 75 weapons programs that suffer delays owing to the prohibition on new starts.

Furthermore, operating under a continuing resolution affects 40 programs owing to the inability to change production quantities.

As the Congressional Research Service points out, the Department of Defense “faces unique challenges operating under a [continuing resolution] while providing the military forces needed to deter war and defend the country.”

In order to address these problems, it is possible for the Defense Department to ask Congress to include specific language in the next continuing resolution—referred to as “anomalies”—to ameliorate these problems. Congress tends to prefer “clean” continuing resolutions, since anomalies start to encroach on legislative prerogatives or program oversight.

Thus, the best way to address these issues is through the appropriation of the defense budget. A defense budget based on the National Defense Authorization Act, passed with strong bipartisan support and signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 12, is the best basis for the defense budget.

This indicates that there is broad agreement that our military needs more resources and that the government is willing to authorize these resources.

The missing key is agreeing on actually allocating the resources that Congress thinks are necessary for our nation’s defense. The Budget Control Act caps are still in place and prevent lawmaker from spending what the National Defense Authorization Act prescribed.

Congress has been unable to overcome the current political discussions on the federal budget, and thus our nation’s defense and the U.S. military are left dangling while negotiations focus on extraneous issues.

As long as this indecision and continuing resolutions are the norm, Congress will continue to create uncertainties and prevent long-term planning.

Another continuing resolution would create further inefficiencies in the Department of Defense, ensuring that defense dollars will not go as far as they could.

Congress and the American people agree that we need to invest more in defense. It’s time to either pepper a new continuing resolution with all the defense anomalies required, or let the National Defense Authorization Act guide the department’s budget for 2018.

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7 Ways Congress Can Rein in Out-of-Control Spending

Congress achieved major success in 2017 by passing the first meaningful tax reform in decades, but fell short in other areas of the budget and spending.

This year, important issues loom, including defense and nondefense appropriations for the remainder of the year, the debt limit, an infrastructure plan, and health care and entitlement reforms, among others.

Here are seven priorities that Congress should address this year:

1. Reform and extend the Budget Control Act.

While imperfect, the Budget Control Act is one of the few tools available to control spending and slow the growth of the federal deficit.

The law has saved hundreds of billions of dollars since its enactment. Instead of passing another budget deal that raises the caps and adds potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in unpaid-for new spending, Congress should stick to the overall spending totals agreed to in 2011.

In doing so, it should remove the categorical caps for defense and nondefense spending, and extend the law. This would allow Congress to prioritize national defense spending, a constitutional mandate, without piling on to the already growing tab that current and future taxpayers will someday have to pay for.

2. Enforce a real debt limit.

If past budget deals are any indication, it’s likely that the looming budget deal could also include a debt limit increase.

Pairing spending increases with raising the debt limit is fiscally dangerous. The debt limit is a different animal and should be handled separately.

The country is more than $20 trillion in debt. Before agreeing to another debt limit increase, Congress must first show a commitment to meaningful spending reforms.

Lawmakers should pursue budget process reforms, such as a statutory limit on all federal spending with real deadlines and automatic enforcement mechanisms. Lawmakers should commit to fiscal responsibility, engage in meaningful budget debate, and pursue deliberate, targeted reforms to the country’s most pressing fiscal issues.

3. President submit and Congress pass a budget.

If a budget deal is completed, some might argue that there’s no need to pass a fiscal 2019 budget inasmuch top-line appropriations numbers will already be locked in.

Reports indicate that the Republican Senate might be reluctant to pursue a budget because of its diminished majority and the political dynamics of the approaching midterm elections.

To let these concerns win out would be a mistake. The president’s budget sets the administration’s legislative agenda for the upcoming year. The congressional budget uses that document as a guide when developing its own proposal and priorities.

Most importantly, without a budget, there’s no mechanism in place to fast-track reforms through reconciliation, meaning that mandatory reforms to reduce the nation’s growing debt would be kicked further down the road.

Congress should pursue a budget for fiscal year 2019. It’s the responsibility of the governing majority.

4. Return to regular order in budgeting and appropriations.

Regular order means that Congress is passing budgets and appropriations, and authorizing legislation in the method and schedule prescribed by the 1974 budget act.

In reality, this has not happened in 20 years, which was the last time Congress enacted funding for all government activities before the end of the fiscal year.

To make matters worse, Congress has also failed to carefully examine and reauthorize programs on a regular basis, allowing for hundreds of billions of dollars per year in so-called “zombie appropriations.”

Congress has fallen into a pattern of funding the government through crisis, owing to self-imposed deadlines. This has led to a cycle of continuing resolutions and massive omnibus spending bills.

The process lacks accountability and oversight, and is a disservice to taxpayers who expect Congress to responsibly and carefully prioritize resources.

5. Reform the budget process.

The budget process provides the framework for regular order and should serve as a guide for legislative action. Too often, though, instead of driving congressional decision-making, the budget process has served as a political tool without implementing meaningful legislation.

In 2018, Congress should implement commonsense budget reforms, such as accounting for interest costs when estimating the fiscal impact of pending legislation, adjusting score-keeping practices to accurately reflect the solvency of federal trust funds, and using fair-value accounting for federal credit programs to reflect the true risks of these programs.

These reforms are a small piece of the puzzle toward creating a more transparent and responsible budget process.

6. Repeal and replace Obamacare.

Despite the unsuccessful attempts at reform last year, health care should continue to be a top priority this year.

While some progress was made with the repeal of the individual mandate, there’s still work to be done to provide relief to millions of Americans.

Congress should seek a long-term solution that enables greater competition so that Americans can choose the option that is best for them, with more affordable options, while protecting the ability of the vulnerable to access care.

7. Pass welfare reform.

Eighty-nine percent of Americans think that the current welfare system needs to be changed or reformed.

An overwhelming majority supports four simple reforms: eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse; not penalizing parents when they get married; not just providing services to the poor, but paying for real outcomes, such as finding a job; and a work requirement in exchange for receiving government benefits.

There is a real appetite for reform from lawmakers, as well as the public, and Congress should follow through on this momentum.

In 2018, Congress and the administration should reject the temptation to take a yearlong victory lap on tax reform and coast into the midterm elections.

Instead, they should continue to move forward with a conservative agenda and face head-on the issues that are affecting millions of Americans, such as the national debt, the defense budget, and health care and entitlement reform.

With deficits projected to reach trillion-dollar levels in only five years, inaction on the budget is driving the country closer to a fiscal breakdown.

Reforms are needed now more than ever.

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Conservatives Warn Trump Not to Revive Earmarks If He Wants to Drain the Swamp

Some conservatives are sounding the alarm over reinstating earmarks in Congress, as President Donald Trump voiced support Tuesday for reviving a budgetary practice that critics say feeds cronyism and corruption in government.

“I hear so much about earmarks and how there was a great friendliness [among lawmakers] when you had earmarks,” Trump said Tuesday in a bipartisan meeting on immigration with House and Senate members.

“Of course, they had other problems, but maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks,” the president said.

“The time is right” to reinstate earmarks, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said, The Washington Times reported Sunday.

In a statement provided Wednesday afternoon to The Daily Signal, Culberson said earmarks could help his district recover from Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston, among other areas, with flooding.

“Hurricane Harvey changed everything for my district, and it’s my job as a representative to be an advocate for my constituents,” Culberson said.

Conservatives long have opposed earmarks, which direct taxpayer money to lawmakers’ special interests and projects through the budget without competition based on merit. Lawmakers banned earmarks under House rules in 2010.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the House’s largest GOP caucus, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that bringing back earmarks isn’t an option for him.   

“My position on earmarks hasn’t changed,” Walker said, adding:

I think it’s a very slippery slope to bring back something that has been abused by so many, so much of the time. … Members [have] to grovel to work out bills and be influenced to vote for legislation they may or may not have even supported at some point. So I think it’s a legitimate concern; I worry that earmarks would allow the algae-infested waters to start filling up the swamp.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told The Hill about bringing back earmarks: “I don’t know that I’m opposed to it.”

“Since Congress holds the power of the purse, members of Congress should be able to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to move more rapidly on a flood control project,” Culberson told The Daily Signal.

The Texas Republican, whose district includes parts of Houston, said earmarks would be a way to help his district recover:

I’m proposing that we restore the ability of members of Congress to direct money toward flood control or highway projects when we receive a request from a local or state unit of government. We would submit the request at the subcommittee level, and the request would then go through the entire legislative process, out in the open, so that the public can see it and debate it. Most importantly, these projects would not increase spending. It’s good public policy.

A reporter for The Washington Post tweeted that Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, is not as keen as the president on reinstating earmarks:

The White House did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

One conservative House staffer told The Daily Signal in an email Wednesday that reinstating earmarks would go against Trump’s pledge to drain the swamp.

“If you’re going to drain the swamp, reinstating earmarks is the last thing you should do. Congress banned earmarks because members were wasting taxpayer dollars and illegally enriching themselves,” the aide said. “Restarting that practice is not what everyday Americans sent us here to do.”

Other conservatives with influence on Capitol Hill are not happy with the development, either.

“I think [Trump] is getting bad advice on this and basically I think he has been frustrated that Congress hasn’t passed much of his agenda other than tax reform, and somehow believes that if they were able to reinstate earmarks, the rest of his agenda would get passed,” Wesley Denton, senior communications director at the Conservative Partnership Institute, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

“The truth is, what it would simply bring back is corruption and bribes and more big spending bills,” Denton said.

In a statement emailed to The Daily Signal, David McIntosh, president of the free-market group Club for Growth, decried the talk of reviving earmarks.

“If Republicans bring back earmarks, then it virtually guarantees that they will lose the House,” McIntosh said. “Bringing back earmarks is the antithesis of draining the swamp.  Earmarks will only benefit the special interests that grow government at the expense of working men and women.”

Mike Needham, chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America, the lobbying affiliate of The Heritage Foundation, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal that resurrecting earmarks should not be an option.

“It is nearly unthinkable that after President Trump ran a historically successful election to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington, D.C., Congress would consider reinstating one of the most egregious examples of cronyism on Capitol Hill,” Needham said, adding:

President Trump should continue to work with conservatives in Congress to drain the swamp and stop any congressional efforts to reinstate earmarks. Heritage Action is dedicated to working alongside President Trump to end cronyism and pass real conservative solutions that actually help hardworking Americans.

The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing  for members on reinstating earmarks on Jan. 18, and another hearing Jan. 19 with outside organizations, Politico reported.

This article has been modified to identify Walker correctly as chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

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5 Ways Congress Fell Short in Spending Your Money in 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s worth remembering that America’s mountain of debt continues to grow.

Here are five key facts about federal spending in 2017 to remember:

1. The deficit reached $666 billion.

666 is known by many as the number of the beast in the book of Revelation in the New Testament. In this case, $666 billion is the 2017 federal budget deficit.

That’s how much more Congress spent in 2017 than it took in from taxation. Of total spending in 2017, which topped $3,982 billion, Congress borrowed 17 cents on every dollar.

2. The debt reached $20 trillion.

The year 2017 marked the first time the national debt exceeded $20 trillion.

The debt reached this level in September when President Donald Trump struck a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to continue funding for domestic and defense programs, provide relief in light of hurricane Harvey, and suspend the debt limit.

Since then, the debt limit was reinstated at $20.4 trillion in early December.

3. Social Security spending reached $1 trillion.

This year marked the first time that Social Security spending on the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance programs topped $1 trillion.

Social Security is the single largest federal benefit program. It has held this rank since 1993, when it first surpassed spending on national defense. Without reforms, both Social Security programs are projected to reach insolvency by 2034.   

4. Three continuing resolutions.

Federal law dictates that Congress must pass a budget to fund national defense and domestic programs that are categorized as discretionary spending, each year by Sept. 31.

The congressional budget process specifies that Congress should provide this funding in the form of 12 individual spending bills so as to allow for proper deliberation of funding priorities. But Congress rarely, if ever, follows this process, which is also referred to as “regular order.”

Three months into fiscal year 2018, which began on Oct. 1, 2017, Congress has already passed three temporary continuing resolutions. The last continuing resolution was passed on Dec. 22 and sets up the next funding deadline on Jan. 19.

Continuing resolutions are a flawed way of funding the government—but when the alternative is a potentially $200+ billion spending increase from a deal to the breach budget caps that are currently in law, a continuing resolution at current funding levels is the lesser evil.

5. First Trump budget was proposed.

The president released his first official budget proposal in May 2017.

The “America First” proposal would balance the budget within 10 years, prioritize national defense spending, and reduce spending on non-defense discretionary programs by more than $1.4 trillion over 10 years.

It would also implement policies to reduce the reach and weight of the federal government by eliminating wasteful and duplicative programs, and by rolling back harmful regulations that reduce individual freedom and hamstring the national economy.

But Congress has not given the president’s proposals the serious consideration that they deserve.

This year, Congress broke several budget number records and kicked the can on funding for the federal government into 2018. This, despite the fact that America’s new president introduced a bold budget to reduce the size and scope of government—including many ideas embraced by Heritage Foundation policy experts.

>>> Read The Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for Balance.

Federal spending is on an unsustainable upward trajectory, driving national debt to economically harmful levels. This comes with consequences that will be felt for generations in the form of lost opportunity and less prosperity.

Now that Congress and the president have achieved significant tax reform, they must work together in 2018 and beyond to realize fundamental budget reform. If they fail, the gains just realized on taxes could be too soon undone as out-of-control spending exerts pressure to raise taxes in the not-too-distant future.

As deficits are projected to reach $1 trillion annually before the end of this decade, Congress and the president must not delay to cut spending, right-size the federal government, and reform unsustainable entitlement programs. Succeeding at that is critical to restoring America to greatness.         

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How Big Is Your State’s Share of $6 Trillion in Unfunded Pension Liabilities?

Despite a solid year for investment returns, the unfunded liabilities of state and local government pension plans increased by $433 billion, the most recent estimate from the American Legislative Exchange Council shows.

According to ALEC’s report—which uses more appropriate assumptions on investment returns than the plans use themselves—state and local governments’ unfunded liabilities now exceed $6 trillion.

That’s a whopping $18,676 for every man, woman, and child, or nearly $50,000 for every household in America.

This is bad news for taxpayers in states and localities where government workers have been promised far more in pension benefits than politicians set aside to pay them. That’s because most states have strong protections for promised pension benefits, meaning there is little prospect of reducing a pension benefit or asking employees to contribute more to it.

Contractual or constitutional obligations for government pensions could mean that paying the pensions of retired government employees may take precedent over paychecks for current employees.

Moreover, some state constitutions prevent any changes to government employees’ pension benefits. That means current government employees can’t ever be required to contribute more to their pension plan than they did on the first day they were hired. And, actually, not a single term of their initially promised pension benefits ever may be altered.

Just imagine how detrimental it would be to private employers if they never were allowed to alter the benefits they initially offered their employees.

With an average funding ratio of only 33.7 percent across state and local pensions and every single state at risk of defaulting on pension obligations (as measured by Pension Protection Act standards, assuming a risk-free rate of return), taxpayers across all states face significant tax increases to pay for their governments’ unfunded pension promises.

Taxpayers in certain states are looking at greater risks and liabilities than others, however.

Taxpayers in Tennessee, Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, for example, must deal with the lowest unfunded liabilities per person, ranging from about $7,600 to $10,900.

Taxpayers in Alaska, Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, and New Mexico, on the other hand, face the highest unfunded pension liabilities, ranging from about $28,100 to $45,700 per person.

 

Overall, the American Legislative Exchange Council estimates that pension plans have only about a third of the funds on hand—33.7 percent—that they need to pay promised benefits. Some states have significantly lower funding levels, which means they are at risk of running out of funds in the near future.

Once a state or local pension plan runs out of money, taxpayers have to fund the pension benefits of retirees as well as the contributions of current employees.

Connecticut, Kentucky, and Illinois have the lowest funding ratios, at 20 percent, 21 percent, and 23 percent respectively.

Already, Illinois spends as much on pensions as it does on welfare and public protection (that is, police and firefighters) combined, and nearly half of its education appropriations go toward teacher pensions. If the state’s pension plans reach insolvency, pensions could become its single biggest cost.

Some states have taken measures to improve the outlook for their pension plans, such as shifting new employees to defined contribution retirement plans, limiting future pension benefits, reducing unrealistic interest rate assumptions, and actually making the annually required pension contributions. But the rising tab for unfunded state and local pension liabilities shows most states have failed to address massive shortfalls.

One motivation for states not to address their pension shortfalls is the hope or expectation of a bailout by federal taxpayers. This would force taxpayers in more fiscally responsible states to pay for the financial recklessness of more spendthrift states.

Lawmakers in Washington need to send a strong signal to states that a federal pension bailout is not an option.

Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, has introduced a bill that would do just that. His legislation, called the State and Local Pensions Accountability and Security Act, would prohibit the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve from providing any form of bailout or financial assistance to a state or local pension plan.

Unless state and local lawmakers know that a federal bailout is not an option, as Babin’s bill proposes, they will have little incentive to enact much-needed pension reforms now.

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New Freedom Caucus Rocks GOP in the Granite State

Eight months ago, David Bates was part of an uprising of conservatives in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives that stalled the state budget process until the legislators could reach a more fiscally responsible standard.

Now Bates, R-Windham, is among several lawmakers in the state’s House Freedom Caucus who are moving from thorn in the leadership’s side to actual leadership during the legislative session that begins in January.

“In the end, it still comes down to individual votes,” Bates told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “We hope to have some meaningful influence in the direction. There is no guarantee we can determine the outcome, but we can help shape the outcome.”

New Hampshire House Speaker Gene G. Chandler, R-Bartlett, announced last week that Bates and other members of the House Freedom Caucus would be part of his leadership team.

The newly minted speaker made Bates an assistant majority whip and co-chairman of a new, 13-member policy advisory committee.

“Speaker Chandler said he wanted to unite the Republican caucus and include all voices, and he’s demonstrating he was serious about that,” Bates said.

The conservative and libertarian group of lawmakers includes about 35 members who regularly show up for meetings. A total of 65 lawmakers have some allegiance to the caucus and “vote the right way,” said state Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, a group founder.

“This shows the importance of getting a group of likeminded conservatives together,” Hoell told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

“We hope this will ultimately lead to better policy,” he added. “We want to focus on education choice and shift to more conservative fiscal policies.”

Patterned after the House Freedom Caucus, the group of conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, the New Hampshire version has sought to push lawmakers to live up to the Granite State’s motto of “Live Free or Die.”

The New Hampshire House is the largest legislature in the United States with 400 members, each representing about 3,500 residents. It currently includes 218 Republicans, 175 Democrats, and three Libertarians, plus three vacancies.

“I am happy to announce those additions from a diverse and talented cross section of our party to improve the lives of the people of New Hampshire,” Chandler said last week in a written statement about the new members of his leadership team. “The message coming out of the caucus and election in November was one of unity.”

Chandler also named other freedom caucus members to leadership roles: Rep. Greg Hill, R-Northfield, became an assistant majority whip, Rep. Andrew Renzullo, R-Hudson, became floor leader, and Rep. Victoria Sullivan, R-Manchester, became an assistant majority leader.

Gov. Chris Sununu is a Republican and the GOP controls the state Senate, so conservative legislation that gets a push is likely to be enacted.

Bates said the Freedom Caucus doesn’t regularly meet and “isn’t a functioning caucus, per se,” but added that he fully expects the lawmakers to cooperate on issues.

The group works week to week and issue to issue, said state Rep. Dave Testerman, R-Merrimack, a member.

“Taxes are an issue and spending goes along with it,” Testerman told The Daily Signal during a meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire, in September. “We have no sales or income taxes. The most taxes we have are business and entrepreneur taxes. We are looking to get a gradual decrease, a half percent a year. That does make quite a difference for business growth.”

Testerman said another issue to make New Hampshire more competitive is a right-to-work law, which would do away with compulsory union membership. He said the previous leadership kicked missed an opportunity.

“The House leadership didn’t push right to work,” Testerman said. “We have a low private union membership, but a very large public sector union membership. This was a mistake by House leadership. They basically told our members that fire and police vote conservative.”

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House ‘Cromnibus’ Rightly Boosts Defense Spending, but Fails Test of Fiscal Responsibility

The House of Representatives is expected this week to debate H.R. 1370, which would fund national defense through the remainder of 2018 and extend funding for all other discretionary programs until Jan. 19 via a continuing resolution.

It would also provide funding extensions to several mandatory programs and potentially add more supplemental funding for hurricane and wildfire relief.

The bill offers no offsets, however, to pay for the additional spending.

Providing for national defense is a core constitutional duty and should be the top priority for Congress. There is a fiscally responsible path to provide for critical defense needs, but adding tens of billions of dollars in unpaid-for spending increases is irresponsible.

And that’s just the beginning. Congress will likely consider a budget-busting caps deal early next year that would increase defense and nondefense spending by more than $200 billion over the next two years.

Instead of busting the Budget Control Act caps, Congress should seize the opportunity to reform the act and make meaningful reforms to discretionary and mandatory spending that will prioritize defense and put the budget on a more sustainable fiscal path.

The continuing resolution omnibus spending bill (“cromnibus”) would increase 2018 base defense spending to $619 billion. This is $70 billion higher than the 2018 Budget Control Act cap for defense and $16 billion above President Donald Trump’s funding request.

It is beyond question that the defense budget was targeted to bear a disproportionate amount of the Budget Control Act’s cuts. Pentagon officials have continually expressed concerns over how lawmakers have cut their budgets even as their mission requirements have expanded.

The House funding proposal would extend other discretionary programs at the fiscal 2017 level through Jan. 19. Because the Budget Control Act caps in 2018 are lower than the funding level lawmakers enacted in 2017, that would mean that the nondefense category would be $4 billion higher than the limit.

If the House proposal were to pass, this would trigger an across-the-board reduction of funding (sequestration) 15 days after the end of the current session of Congress under the provisions of the law. Congress could delay the reductions for the duration of the continuing resolution.

There are tens of billions of dollars in wasteful and inefficient programs that could be cut in 2018. Instead of continuing funding at the current level or passing another deal that busts the budget caps, Congress should live within its means and prioritize defense spending within the aggregate Budget Control Act cap.

The “cromnibus” would also appropriate an additional $81 billion in emergency disaster-relief funding for areas devastated by hurricanes and wildfires. Thus far, Congress has appropriated nearly $52 billion for this purpose.

The president’s latest request was for an additional $44 billion, and Congress has nearly doubled that amount with this bill. None of this funding has been paid for with offsetting spending reductions.

Carrying out lifesaving response and long-term recovery efforts for those directly affected by these natural disasters is a national priority. About half of the funding appropriated and requested so far has gone to FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund for those purposes.

However, the remaining funds have gone toward community development block grants and Small Business Administration grants, debt forgiveness for the troubled National Flood Insurance Program (but without addressing needed programmatic reforms), and to fight wildfires in the western United States.

The House “cromnibus” would add on to that list with agricultural,  transportation, and education subsidies. The effectiveness of these grant programs is questionable at best, but they certainly do not meet the criteria of an emergency.

The National Flood Insurance Program and wildfire mitigation and response are two issues that Congress should take action to reform, but a government funding bill is not the proper vehicle for that debate.

Finally, the bill extends mandatory programs, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the VA Choice program. Like the flood and wildfire programs, CHIP has structural problems that must be addressed. The VA Choice program should also be re-evaluated and improved so that it can provide targeted care to those veterans who truly need it.

Those issues should be thoroughly debated through the regular order process, not attached to an 11th-hour funding bill.

While the House proposal would provide a needed boost and greater predictability for defense programs, it falls short in almost all other areas.

Instead of cutting wasteful programs to pay for more defense spending, it maintains the status quo and sets the stage for another budget-busting deal in the coming weeks.

It also oversteps its boundaries into other policy areas that should be debated separately.

Instead of more of the same, Americans deserve a responsible, accountable, and transparent government. This bill fails to meet that test.

 

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