Republicans back at old trucks

Published 10:31 am Friday, July 10, 2015

For a variety of rationales Republicans have been recognized as willing to shut down the federal government every few years. Generally speaking this has angered the public, but that seems to create little concern among Republicans in Congress as they once again approach a possible shutdown Oct. 1, 2015.

This time the shutdown will be about defining just how much power the Republican Congress has when opposing a Democratic president. Republicans, it is no secret, like spending money on defense, most often more than the Department of Defense requests, but dislike spending money of social programs.

This upcoming battle over budget reflects those longstanding positions on what spending is justified.

This story begins in 2013 with a budget compromise that created “sequestration,” a budget reduction plan without targeted focus designed to be hated by both parties so much that the parties would be forced to work out a really much smarter approach to the budget.

But one should never underestimate the ability of Tea Party Republicans to choose the absolute worst ideas and embrace them, as they did in 2013 by blocking targeted budgeting in favor of sequestration. Consequently, sequestration has imposed unwise cuts and ignored smart cuts in the most recent budget.

Now come the Republicans, unable to control their own House Tea Party, they devise a creative way to fund defense without ending sequestration on the social services side of government, a perfect world in Republican terms.

The trick is to re-fund a Bush era “overseas contingency fund” once used to keep two wars off the budget books. So Republicans offer up a bill placing a cool $100 billion into this fund, creating the largest defense budget in four years even though troop commitments overseas have been reduced drastically since 2012.

Think of this as a defense slush fund, since that is exactly what it is intended to be, a fund that takes the defense budget to $630 billion, $96 billion more than defense requested.

OK, so now we have Republicans increasing spending by $100 billion but knowing that they still want to cut virtually any and all domestic spending to recover the excess they just placed in defense.

So where do Republicans propose spending cuts? Job training funding would be reduced; Pell grants for college students cut; Head Start for children cut; zero funding for the Affordable Care Act; National Service Programs reduced; the EPA; National Parks Services, and many more programs popular with voters but disliked by Republicans.

In addition to these direct budget cuts the Republican budget proposals restrict regulations for fracking, reverse oversight of for-profit universities, block new clean water rules, stop costal marine planning for climate change, and end implementation of new emission standards for coal fired electricity plants among other business favored changes.

The end result is, undoubtedly, a presidential veto or a Senate blockage before the bills reach the president. In short, Democrats will never agree to these cuts, reductions, and rule changes of programs supported by most Americans.

And that should end in a government shutdown when the Tea Party House Republicans once again insist the president shut down the government by not passing their insane budget bills.

Alternatively, Congress could discuss the budget now, recognize that a divided government requires compromise and work to trade for priorities and resolve the difficult while dismissing the impossible.

So far there is little to indicate the Republican majorities in congress feel any need to participate in compromise when irrationality seems so exciting. Will Republicans do it once again, shut down the government for no advantage?

Bet on it.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.