Congress should be forced to offset all emergency spending

Congress is engaged in an epic battle over the proper approach to border security and how to send military aid to allies. A big issue being lost in the debate is that all these ideas cost money, yet politicians don’t care about find cuts to existing programs to pay for the new spending.

Although the policy debates are important, nobody is fighting to slash existing spending to pay for all these new expensive ideas.

Years ago, when I was counsel to Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.), I remember a leadership staffer telling me that the moment the federal government runs a deficit, the size of that number will not matter to Congress or the executive branch. They would run up the numbers, he said, because they do not care whether the deficit is $2 billion or $2 trillion. In their eyes, a deficit is a deficit.

Unfortunately, that staffer was spot on. In fiscal 2000, the federal government ran a $240 billion surplus. But once the federal government started to run small deficits in 2001, politicians stopped caring about the size. This year, the deficit is roughly $2 trillion.

Currently, Congress is debating supplemental ideas to fund border security and tens of billions in foreign aid. As another my former boss Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argues, the debt is a big national security issue. Congress needs to treat debt with the attention it gives to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

As politicians prepare to write big checks for wars overseas, our federal government has done nothing to fight the war on debt at home. To the contrary, both parties have accelerated spending.

Members of both parties want to spend, yet there is no discussion of cutting spending to pay for the new spending. ABC News reports that “22 Senate Republicans defied Donald Trump and voted with Democrats to pass a $95 billion foreign aid package — most if for Ukraine and Israel.” The package “includes $26 billion to help replenish U.S. military stockpiles depleted by ammunition and other equipment and supplies sent to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.”

Republicans in the House could probably live with that, if only they could find and pass alongside it $26 billion in cuts to pay for it.

Ideas to cut spending don’t get the attention that these massive new spending proposals garner. Paul forced a vote last year to cut federal spending by 5 percent in fiscal 2024 and 2025. His “Six Penny Plan” would be a great bill to run with any supplemental package, so that Congress could finally demonstrate that it is serious about limiting its spending.

The Six Penny Plan would go a long way toward making Republicans more comfortable with spending on priorities, rather than the usual approach of throwing money at every problem with no regard for an end date.

A big-ticket example of Republican excess was the COVID-19 pandemic era Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. That cost the taxpayer $2 trillion in new spending, yet Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was nearly run out of the Republican Party for even daring to force a vote on it.

Having a plan to cut spending would require the federal government to find money when Congress needs to confront a crisis, instead of just opening the checkbook and spending hundreds of billions on new programs with no offsets.

Democrats are no better than Republicans, of course. According to the House Budget Committee, we can thank President Joe Biden’s policies for $82 trillion in scheduled spending over the next decade and $65 trillion in taxes over the same period of time, the highest sustained level in American history. Higher spending and higher taxes shift resources from the private sector toward government. The more government controls, the more the American people lose freedom and experience creeping socialism. One need not be an economist to see that there is a massive gap between revenues and outlays that will result in even more inflation.

Former Vice President Mike Pence’s think tank, Advancing American Freedom, has proposed cuts for new spending to accompany the aid package to Israel. Ideas include defunding the United Nations to save $12.5 billion a year, implementing Rep. Chip Roy’s (R-Tex.) Eliminate Congressional Slush Fund Act for $22 billion in savings, repeal the Medicare and Medicaid Improvements Fund that has never been used, terminate Biden’s climate change tax credits to save $70 billion over ten years, and mop up other nonrecurring expense slush funds hidden throughout the executive branch.

Congress should offset all new spending, and now is a great time to get right with the American people to show they have spending priorities, not merely a credit card with no limits.

Brian Darling is former counsel to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

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