Photo by adr1682305408 Thanh, via Flickr

September 22, 2017 Kyle Kirker 0Comment

“The Wall” could be on the horizon.

On September 14th the House of Representatives passed the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act,” which funds the government through the 2018 fiscal year. This bill represents the first time that Congress has passed all 12 appropriations bills via regular order before their deadline since 2009.

During the Obama years, Congress funded the government through CRs (Continuing Resolutions) — which are essentially short-sighted, last minute, govern-by-crisis spending packages. This is not how our government was designed to work. Instead, the government is supposed to be funded by 12 appropriations bills, each addressing a different segment of government. The 12 appropriation subcommittees are:

  1.       Agriculture
  2.       Commerce, Justice, and Science
  3.       Defense
  4.       Energy and Water Development
  5.       Financial Services and General Government
  6.       Homeland Security
  7.       Interior and Environment
  8.       Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
  9.       Legislative Branch
  10.   Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
  11.   State and Foreign Operations
  12.   Transportation and Housing and Urban Development

Why does this matter? Funding the government through the appropriations process, rather than by CR, allows the members of Congress to properly debate and amend governmental spending. When the appropriations process is abandoned in favor of the Continuing Resolution, spending is lumped together in a must-pass funding bill which throws fiscal responsibility to the wind. Despite this huge victory for financially responsible governance (or at the least the closest we’ve been in a long time), one is hard pressed to find a headline highlighting this victory for House Republicans.

The Bill

This spending package fully funds the government for FY2018, including multiple conservative wish list items, while avoiding the deep (and much needed) cuts to federal spending that the Trump administration asked for. Here are some of the highlights of the draft versions of the spending package, which were subsequently amended and adopted by the House last week:

  •         $1.6 billion for Trump’s southern border wall
  •         Defunds Planned Parenthood
  •         Blocks implementation of Obamacare
  •         Decreases SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or welfare) funding by $4.87 billion
  •         Millions more for Customs and Border Protection, ICE, and the Coast Guard
  •         A $5 billion cut in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education funding bill, including cuts to OSHA and the NLRB
  •         Increased funding for the FBI, ATF, DEA, and anti-opioid programs.
  •         An additional $219 million for NASA
  •         A reduction in Department of Commerce funding by nearly $1 billion
  •         Continues a prohibition on the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees into the U.S.
  •         Prohibits implementation of the UN Arms Trade Treaty
  •         Massive increases in defense spending ($658 billion in defense spending, which represents a $68 billion increase over 2017, and $18.4 billion above President Trump’s budget request)
  •         A prohibition against the use of funds for abortion in the Federal Employee Health Benefits program
  •         Additional funding to increase security for Members of Congress
  •         Freezes Congressional pay
  •         $5 billion in additional funding to the VA to address its issues in caring for veterans and reduce the backlog
  •         Defunds at least 5 climate change programs
  •         Cuts foreign aid by $1.2 billion
  •         Prohibits foreign aid money from being spent on abortions
  •         Provides no funding for the UN Human Rights Council until it stops its anti-Israel agenda
  •         $646 million in cuts to the Department of Transportation
  •         Cuts Housing and Urban Development by $487 million
  •         Cuts the EPA by $534 million and restricts implementation of overreaching regulations
  •         Reduces IRS funding to less than 2008 levels

The Vote

The Republican-led House of Representatives passed the bill in a 211-198 vote, which was divided mostly along party lines with a few exceptions. Fourteen Republicans voted no, and one Democrat voted yes. How did our local Congressman vote?

The yays: Brad Wenstrup, Warren Davidson, Steve Chabot, and Jim Jordan

The nays: Thomas Massie

What it Means

While the bill does not include the sharp cuts to government that are needed, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act does represent a series of conservative policy victories long sought after by Republicans. It also funds many of Trump’s key policy objectives. Though this latest spending package does not accomplish everything we want it to (namely, a balanced budget), it is a massive improvement over the out-of-control spending that occurred during the Obama administration.

It is a shame that Rep. Thomas Massie joined Nancy Pelosi in voting against the Trump wall, defunding Planned Parenthood, and dismantling Obamacare. Voting no is easy; you can always find something wrong with a bill. It takes leadership, as was shown by Congressmen Wenstrup, Davidson, and Chabot, to lend your support to something which is good but not perfect. The Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act was a big step in the right direction.

The bill now awaits Senate approval, in which the measures adopted by the House will likely be changed in big ways as negotiations continue.

Follow this author on Twitter: @KyleKirker

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