There were two major complaints which lead to Rand Paul’s opposition to the most recent bipartisan spending spree. Process and ideology.
Appropriate appropriation bills, done through regular order, are mandated to be done through 12 separate bills needing to go through both houses and signed by the President by the start of the federal fiscal year on October 1st, every year. Every other method of funding government is a recognition that our government has failed to live up to it’s most basic task. Whether it’s continuing resolutions, omnibuses, cromnibuses, or supplemental appropriations–all are evidence of government failure at the most basic level.
The reason 12 separate appropriations bills is preferable to one single bill to fund all of government is pretty obvious. Doing the budget piecemeal allows for separate government functions and agencies to be considered on their own, rather than a binary choice presented for government or no government. This difference is especially stark if amendments, proposed changes, or even debate aren’t allowed by leadership on the final bill. For instance, Bernie Sanders voted against yesterday’s spending bill because it awarded far too much money to the military, despite the fact I’m sure he was happy with the tremendous increases in domestic spending.
Other dangers done by ignoring the process are highlighted by all the reasons given for Rand Paul’s “read the bills act”. The act tries to force exactly what you’d suspect–that legislators do the bare minimum and at least read legislation before they vote on it so they know what laws they’re forcing on us. Whether such legislation mandates that bills are posted for public consumption 72 hours before any consideration by congress, or one day of transparency for every 20 pages of legislation, the goal is the same, and it’s the very least of what we should expect of our representatives.
The spending resolution that Rand Paul was asking for an amendment on was 700 pages long, and was released to Congress one day before they were set to vote on it.
This isn’t just… inefficient. This is madness. Laws passed by Congress affect all of us, from how we live to what we spend. We elect congressmen to represent our interests, and they aren’t able to do so if they aren’t even allowed the time to consider the laws they vote on. Some legislation before Congress runs in the hundreds to thousands of pages, and some legislation isn’t even presented to members before the scheduled vote.
Another bill on process that’s been proposed by Rand in the past was the “one subject at a time act”. Again, it’s name says it all. It would have mandated that all bills in Congress deal with a single topic, clearly expressed. What the bill aimed to prevent was clustering unwanted bills within unrelated, sure to pass legislation.
Similar reasoning is what lead to the mandate that Congress skirts nearly every year for 12 separate appropriations bills for separate functions of government. Our federal government spends roughly $4 trillion a year, so funding it with one single bill (or honestly, even it’s mandated 12) seems to oversimplify huge decisions and inhibit adequate deliberations inherently necessary in something that large.
Even with enough time to actually read the bill, anything with a $4 trillion price tag should never be a binary, all or nothing choice.
Officially, Rand was holding up the process for a simple request–to allow 15 minutes of debate and a vote on an amendment to the bill. The argument against allowing him that was that “well, then everyone would want an amendment” and the fear that it would derail the deal.
It seems an odd argument to make that if they allowed consideration of Rand’s amendment, that other amendment requests would follow… given that NOT allowing amendments is a large part of the problem.
It’s not like there wasn’t time to allow amendments for any reason other than waiting until a day before the government was set to shut down, unnecessarily, to present a 700 page bill. We’ve known funding the government through the right processes was a problem since… October. Congress had four months to address it’s failure to produce it’s appropriations bills on time in any way they chose, and it came down to a bill presented one day before the latest shutdown. This was entirely avoidable.
The bill itself addresses spending for two years, and would increase the federal deficit by more than $500 billion. $500 billion. $500 billion over already massively high deficits of a trillion dollars. 21% over caps. Presented, by Republicans, as the only available solution, 24 hours before the vote, similar to the vote on Obamacare.
If this seems wrong, it’s because it’s the literal opposite of what they’ve campaigned on for years, and roughly the only convincing reason to support them–fiscal conservatism. They’ve replaced Obama’s trillion dollar deficits with their own… trillion dollar deficits.
In 2010, they told us the reason they couldn’t cut spending was that they lacked all power, and we gave them the house. In 2014, they said that the house alone was meaningless, because the Senate wouldn’t support their legislation, and we gave them the Senate. By 2016, they talked of how nothing they did could get past a veto, and they got the Presidency to. Now that they have… everything… they are increasing spending by $500 billion, ending the 2011 discretionary spending caps, raising the deficit, the debt, and the debt ceiling. The trillion dollar deficits they once labeled “socialist” are now labeled “necessary”. And anyone who opposed this? They labeled “obstructionist”. The new excuse is that their majority isn’t large enough.
In Rand Paul’s words, “When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party. But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty.”
As usual, Republicans (in general) wanted more spending on the military, Democrats (in tandem) want more domestic spending, and they’re set to compromise by raising spending tremendously on both. Time and again, over and over, deja vu.
It’s Battlestar Galactica.
This is why primaries matter, and this is why primaries tend to matter even more than general elections. If fiscal conservatives don’t pay attention early enough, their options by the general is often a progressive Democrat or a progressive Republican. If the base only pull the lever for whoever has an “R” by their name, and ignore anything done in office, they’ll only encourage the bastards.
Senators like Rand Paul and Mike Lee need reinforcements, and that doesn’t mean expanding the amount of Republican seats making up the majority. Republicans have proved time and again that their brand label is no guarantee of ideology whatsoever. Without primary involvement, whether or not Republicans keep the Senate, or how many seats they gain or lose, won’t matter in the slightest.
In the east, Eric Brakey is running in Maine. In the mid-west, Austin Petersen is running in Missouri. In the south, Nick Freitas is running in Virginia. In the west, I guess Kelli Ward is good enough for Arizona. There might be another good candidate or two out there, but the list is short.
There’s no reason to care whether or not Republicans keep or expand their majority without them. Without a return to principles that are supposed to set Republicans apart from Democrats in theory, it’s meet the new boss, same as the old boss.