The new bipartisan budget legislation makes trillion-dollar deficits a real possibility.
The Capitol this week was consumed with budget negotiations and, after defiant stands by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), H.R. 1892, a debt-busting bill known as the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018” cleared both the Senate and the House with comfortable majorities, and was quickly signed into law by President Trump.
So, what’s in this bill that’s going to raise the spending cap a reported $296 billion through 2019?
For starters, there’s a big increase in military funding – the biggest, in fact, since 2003, “when the nation was fighting in Afghanistan, invading Iraq and expanding national defense after the 9/11 attacks,” as the Associated Press observes. Just how big is the increase? According to the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, the bill would allocate around $700 billion for defense, up from $634 billion in 2017. That’s a 10 percent increase. And that number will rise again in 2019, to $716 billion.
The increase in military spending is nearly matched by an increase in domestic funding. The 2017 domestic budget, about $539 billion, would rise to $591 billion this year, an increase of just under 10 percent. It, too, would increase in 2019.
With this deal, Republicans are abandoning all pretense toward fiscal responsibility and once again “spending like drunken sailors,” as James Hohmann observed in the Daily 202 back in November, during negotiations over the tax bill that’s projected to increase the national deficit an eye-popping $1.4 trillion over the next decade. Without cost-cutting measures or tax increases, the federal government is well on its way to permanent trillion-dollar deficits, as noted by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent, bipartisan think tank.
The budget also provides $89 billion in disaster relief for hurricane-ravaged communities in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and communities destroyed by wildfires on the West Coast.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides health coverage to about nine million low-income children, would be funded for an additional decade. The previous short-term budget had extended CHIP for six years. The budget includes several other victories for service providers, dedicating $2 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs to help clear its backlog, and $7 billion to community health centers which, as Vox notes, provided care to 26.5 million people in 2016.
What else? Well, in a victory for Republicans, the bill includes funding for socially conservative priorities like abstinence education. On the other hand, it also includes about $20 billion in infrastructure spending, a huge victory for Democrats.
At the New Yorker, John Cassidy tries to make sense of the new budget, exploring arguments for and against what he terms the “Trump stimulus.”
At the Federalist, Robert Tracinski argues that the budget is a sign that the Overton Window – the “range of ideas tolerated in public discourse” – has shifted considerably toward acceptance of “the welfare state.”
President Trump declined to release the Democratic rebuttal to the memo released last week by the House Intelligence Committee.
- In sending the Democratic response back to committee, Trump’s counsel Donald McGahn cited the concerns of the FBI and Justice Department. But, as CNN observes, “Trump ignored those concerns when he decided to release the Republican memo last week.” Trump’s move provides more fuel to the argument that Republicans are playing a particularly deceptive form of politics.
The stock market continued its long week of volatility – at Friday’s closing it was down 1,143.12 points on the week, a decrease of 4.5 percent.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is on the hot seat following the resignation of White House staffer Rob Porter.
- Porter resigned after the British tabloid the Daily Mail published “accusations and photographs of past incidents of domestic violence” by and of his two ex-wives.
- The resignation, though, has ensnared both Kelly and White House Counsel Donald McGahn in controversy, after the Washington Post reported that they both knew about the allegations against Porter for months.
- To smaller degree, Hope Hicks, President Trump’s longtime aide and current communications director, was caught up the controversy, too, after it was revealed she was dating Porter.
- The president, too, was engulfed in controversy after publicly wishing Porter well on Friday.
- Trump has since doubled down on his comments, as he often does, taking to Twitter to decry the lack of “Due Process” and argue that “peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” There was no mention of Porter’s accusers, who documented his abuse with photographs.
- A second White House staffer, David Sorenson, resigned on Friday after allegations of domestic abuse became public.
Published Friday, but lost in the noise surrounding the Porter controversy, was a weird New York Times story about a failed intelligence operation to recover secret hacking tools from a shadowy Russian figure who also told US intelligence officials he had damaging information on President Trump. Read it here.
header image: "handshake - 2 men," flazingo photos / flickr