Pixel Tracker

Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 11:23 pm | Fair 51º


Veronique de Rugy: Congress to Embrace Its Favorite Pastime, Kicking the Can

Election cycles can be unfriendly to serious policy debates on critical issues, such as Washington's ongoing addiction to excessive government spending and debt.

The circus of this election cycle has been particularly devoid of serious discussion on this paramount problem.

We see minimal concern that deficits are growing again, no serious solutions being offered to control the exploding federal debt and a failure to recognize the overdue need to rein in the government's major entitlement programs.

Instead, members of Congress from both parties are hoping to avoid yet another last-minute tussle over the annual federal budget process so they can focus on November's high-stakes elections.

With Congress facing an Oct. 1 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, it looks as if a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded is likely to happen.

Talking on the Senate floor this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced, "I expect to move forward this week on a continuing resolution through Dec. 9 ... and include funds for Zika control and for our veterans."

In other words, McConnell and company want to kick the can past the elections, which, if history is a guide, means the lame-duck Congress coming back in December to finalize a fiscally irresponsible budget deal will make fiscal matters worse, not better.

House Freedom Caucus conservatives oppose a short-term continuing resolution and are demanding the passage of a longer-term CR that would allow the next president and Congress to hash out a final budget agreement.

They argue that a lame-duck Congress and president would be likelier to pass a bloated spending bill in December, when a number of policymakers will have less reason to care.

One benefit of passing a CR into next year is that it could temper the awful cycle of budgeting by crisis, which has become the norm in recent years. It also would increase the chances of keeping the spending caps put in place in 2011 from being violated, which has happened in previous end-of-the-year rushes from Congress.

It's a sad state of affairs, however, if the most we can get in terms of a debate over spending is how long of a CR Congress should pass.

First, a fight over a potential government shutdown in October wouldn't be so disastrous as many claim (and Republican leaders believe). Second, in the grand scheme of our budget problems, the debate over whether a short-term CR would be better than a long-term CR is somewhat meaningless.

Neither would address the real budget problems we face, nor would any CR shrink the size and scope of government by actually eliminating programs.

Instead, the fight will be over bottom-line numbers, which the average American understands little about anyway. On top of that, the piece of the budget Congress is fighting over (discretionary spending) is a smaller (and declining) share of overall federal spending.

Now, it's true that Republicans have shown a willingness to fight on some issues and stand firmly behind some policy positions, but these fights usually involve side issues, such as cutting off Planned Parenthood funding.

Taxpayers shouldn't have to fund Planned Parenthood in particular, but it would be nice for a change to see Republicans make the case that the federal government shouldn't be funding family planning services at all.

But just like the Republican-led battle to stop ACORN from receiving federal funds a few years ago, it appears that the GOP's desire to save taxpayers a few bucks has more to do with politics than it does with concerns about government spending.

Sadly, the Republican presidential candidate supports more military spending, busting the budget caps yet again and protecting the lumbering system of federal entitlement programs that threaten the prosperity of America's younger generations.

That's unfortunate, but if measured in terms of what Republicans have accomplished in the past 30 years, it isn't much different from the position of the average Republican member of Congress.

Granted, the average Republican will now symbolically vote for ending the Affordable Care Act, yet when push comes to shove, Republican members of Congress can't be counted on to support sensible cuts to Medicare or bringing individual choice to Social Security.

So whether we get a short-term CR or we get a long-term CR, the message from congressional Republicans and the party's presidential aspirant appears to be that the only thing that matters is winning elections.

— Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a columnist for Reason magazine and the Washington Examiner, and blogs about ecomomics for National Review. Click here to contact her, and follow her on Twitter: @veroderugy. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.