(BY STEPHEN MOORE at TheHill.com) If Republicans lose control of Congress in November — and the odds have just gone up considerably — they will have the $1.3 trillion spending bill enacted into law this month to blame. This bill was supposed to buy Republicans peace with voters by “bringing home the bacon,” and more defense spending, but instead it has incited a near revolt by voters against the senators and representatives who let it happen.
The White House has been surprised, too, by the severity of the voter backlash. If President Trump could have a do-over, I have no doubt he would have vetoed this oinker. The real shock and surprise is that the Republican leadership in Congress got the economics and the politics so wrong here. Alas, they too have been politically blinded by living inside what Trump often derides as the “Washington bubble.”
Many of the same members of Congress who were swept into office by the anti-big government Tea Party movement, back in 2010, voted eight years later for a bill that spends some $300 billion more than the caps the Tea Party class helped to enact in the first place.
This makes the budgetary betrayal all the more demoralizing. In chatting with several Trump agency heads last week, many complained to me that they can’t even spend the money as fast as Congress is appropriating it. Can you imagine a business budgeting like this?
I won’t regurgitate all of the fiscal sins in this bill, but some do deserve special attention. One is the promise and House rule that all bills would be reviewed for at least three days before being voted on. This was to prevent the recurrence of the infamous defense by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of the ObamaCare vote of 2010 — to wit, “we will read the bill after we vote on it.” Very few, if any, members of Congress read through the some 2,200 pages of the omnibus spending bill that they approved into law.
Then there was the deal with Democratic leaders to secure more military spending in exchange for boosts in social spending. Back in 2011, Republicans agreed to $1 of military cutbacks for every $1 of domestic program cuts. The government shrank by several hundred billion dollars for several years, even with a liberal president. Now we have the reverse outcome: $1 more domestic spending for each $1 of military spending. An analysis by the Heritage Foundation estimates closer to $2 of domestic spending for every $1 for defense.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) is grinning like the cat that ate the canary, which is prima facie evidence that this was a very bad deal for taxpayers. Even the $700 billion for the Pentagon that Republicans are crowing about as a “victory” is a Pyrrhic one at best. How does it enhance American national security to borrow $700 billion, in no small part from the Chinese, to build a bigger military to defend against nations like China? A strong case can be made that, in the 21st century, the burgeoning national debt is America’s greatest threat to our future security. The war with China to come — if it comes — will be a war over economic dominance, not military superiority.
Finally, there are the special projects that got funded, including presumably hundreds of millions of dollars for the Gateway rail tunnel project in New York City. Through Amtrak and other backdoor sources, Schumer is crowing that he secured $500 million of funding for this tunnel that New Yorkers have declared they don’t want to fund themselves. If built, this tunnel will go down in history as one of the most overpriced transportation projects in history, right up there with the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska and the $60 trillion high-speed train in California that no one will ride.
This isn’t the kind of cost-conscious budgeting behavior that voters hoped for when they put Republicans in charge of Congress. Now the GOP has got conservative voters angry as hornets. If they stay this angry by November, kiss the Republican majorities goodbye. Perhaps the best way for Republicans to save themselves is by rescinding tens of billions of this unnecessary spending. Or, better yet, give the president a line-item veto so he can purge the pork. The GOP should get going while the ink still isn’t dry on this rancid bill.
Stephen Moore is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a consultant for FreedomWorks, and a senior economic analyst at CNN. He served as an economic adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. You can follow him on Twitter @StephenMoore.