While most Americans were sleeping last Friday morning, a Republican-controlled Congress passed one of the worst budget agreements in the entire history of our nation.
This deal drives a stake in the heart of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was one of the few victories of House Republicans, and will return America to the shameful territory of $1 trillion deficits, perhaps as soon as next year. This spending deal busts the spending caps by $296 billion over the next two years and suspends the debt ceiling through the rest of the year. And as if all of this isn’t enough, it throws away budget reconciliation for this year, our only tool to finally repeal Obamacare and enact meaningful welfare reform, due to reconciliation’s diminished threshold for passage to 51 votes.
It is, in short, a budget deal that no principled fiscal conservative should support. That’s why Sen. Rand Paul’s stand against it is all the more remarkable.
Republican leadership frequently creates a false “binary choice” between a terrible budget and a government shutdown, hoping to get conservatives to vote against their principles and promises. They know the media will vilify anyone who votes against the budget, and they take advantage of it to pressure the few genuine conservatives in Congress into caving. It is a hypocritical and deceptive move – and Paul had the honesty and guts to say so.
Although many of his fellow Republicans and the press panned him for obstructionism, Paul was justified in his actions. He wanted to be able to offer an amendment to the bill, wanted to have more than a short time allowed by Senate rules to debate what was a backroom-deal bill, and he gave Republicans a little more time to think about the disastrous move they were about to make.
“Moderates” and liberals instead took shots at him. They called him a “troublemaker” and a “perennial annoying gadfly.” In fact, Paul is one of the few honest people on Capitol Hill these days – and if Republicans want to keep their seats in 2018, they would do well to imitate him.
Republicans can accomplish major legislative goals when they actually want to do so. They passed tax reform late last year – a major accomplishment and one that indicated to conservatives across the nation that 2018 might bring the start of a new Republican Party, one that could unite to get something good done, even if the bills weren’t perfect.
But this spending bill proves that Republicans are just as undisciplined, incapable, and untrustworthy as we thought they were after they failed to repeal Obamacare. In fact, this most recent failure is even worse, because it shows that Republicans don’t even have a grasp on basic economic principles. Tax cuts mean lower revenue, and lower revenue requires lower spending. Instead of standing their ground and making the major cuts that our economy needs, however, Republicans went on to pass this gargantuan, disastrous bill that will increase our debt and make it nearly insurmountably difficult to get back to responsible spending levels in the future.
In the coming months, Republicans need to do some searching for their conscience, assuming many of them haven’t abandoned it, and return to their principles of fiscal conservatism. There are plenty of strong proposals on the table. Fiscal conservatives could support something like Sen. Mike Enzi and Rep. Mark Sanford’s “Penny Plan,” which cuts one cent per dollar across the whole budget, or a Swiss-style debt brake, which ties spending to potential gross domestic product and restricts spending from increasing above that level. This latter method has cut Switzerland’s spending almost in half.
Ultimately, it’s not just a matter of practicality and economic responsibility – though it certainly is that. It’s a matter of integrity and of our republic. Our system is built on representatives who do just that: actually represent the people. Republican leadership’s broken promises and their hypocritical legislative tactics and propaganda are not lost on conservatives across the country.
Unless we see more senators in the style of Rand Paul, Republicans should start preparing to surrender their majorities. The public deserves better than what they got on Friday night. Rand Paul understands that. Let’s hope more Republicans will before it’s too late.
Adam Brandon (@adam_brandon) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is president and CEO of FreedomWorks.
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