Someone’s spending, my Lord, kum-bay-ah … Mitch McConnell made it official earlier this afternoon, announcing a “bipartisan, bicameral” budget deal that will settle both the FY2018 and FY2019 budgets. And all it took was enough new spending to make everyone but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren happy!
Sen. McConnell on budget deal agreement: “This bill is the product of extensive negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House. No one would suggest it was perfect, but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people.” pic.twitter.com/GLXMLGGZPa
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 7, 2018
Chuck Schumer followed McConnell to the dais, offering self-congratulation over compromise and slamming Donald Trump for, well, whatever. But Schumer made another point that is unfortunately all too true:
“While President Trump threatens shutdowns and stalemates, congressional leaders have done the hard work of finding compromise and consensus,” Sen. Schumer says https://t.co/oeF2MyLFUF pic.twitter.com/lAIHstCHfD
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 7, 2018
And finally, [it will] consign the arbitrary and pointless sequester caps to the ashbin of history.
Well, yes it will do that, and that’s not a good thing, as I wrote earlier at The Week:
The main sticking point for both parties are adjustments to the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending, the “sequester” limits first imposed in the budget battles of 2010 and 2011. Former President Obama first suggested the idea as a means to make both sides miserable, but then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) embraced the idea as a means to keep the federal government from expanding, a key goal for fiscal conservatives.
The caps got an adjustment in 2013’s budget, but since then, the issue has ground into a stalemate. The military has chafed at its restricted funding while its missions expanded, especially in the fight against ISIS. Republicans have demanded an end to the sequester as a national-security issue, while Democrats refused to budge without a dollar-for-dollar increase in non-defense discretionary spending. And that tension has been enough to keep government growth in check, albeit in a less-than-responsible fashion at times.
Unfortunately, rather than search for a responsible and rational manner to live within its means — or at least to keep from going too much further outside its means — Congress has chosen instead to spend wildly enough for both sides to make the problem go away.
So much for principles on either side. Speaking of which, both McConnell and Schumer claim this deal to be a “bicameral” agreement. Wasn’t Nancy Pelosi just on the House floor “filibustering” any budget deal unless it was linked to a DACA vote? In fact, she was still on the floor expounding at length about that when Schumer and McConnell unveiled the deal:
Quite a splitscreen: Chuck Schumer was announcing the details of the Senate budget deal while Nancy Pelosi entered hour three of her #DACABuster, saying she won’t support a deal without a commitment to a DACA vote in the House https://t.co/91nmIdbetX
— Zach Montellaro (@ZachMontellaro) February 7, 2018
Senate leaders announced Wednesday the contours of a bipartisan deal to raise defense and nondefense spending by nearly $300 billion over the next two years.
The agreement, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced on the chamber floor, would raise defense spending by $80 billion in the current fiscal year and more next year, and nondefense spending by $63 billion in fiscal 2018 and $68 billion in fiscal 2019. …
McConnell also highlighted the funding for fighting opioid abuse and disaster aid. He also highlighted funding assurances on transportation and infrastructure, which he called a bipartisan priority.
The package would extend a reauthorization of a popular children’s health insurance program for ten years, four years longer than the reauthorization included in the prior CR.
The package includes additional funding for disaster relief.
The first step will be to authorize a CR, not to extend budget negotiations, but to finish off the appropriations bills that will get rolled up into the FY2018 omnibus. Presumably that will take a few weeks to complete, but with new spending levels already set in the deal, the relevant committees can work on FY2019 appropriations at the same time. The House could block this deal when it comes back from the Senate, but the “bicameral” agreement means that it’s almost certain to pass with overwhelming numbers.
The end result is a dismal disappointment for fiscal conservatives and progressive immigration activists alike. Democrats threw “dreamers” under the bus for $150 billion, and Republicans threw away any effort to impose fiscal discipline on Washington. It’s a remarkable irony that the biggest budgetary accomplishment from single-party Republican governance will be the largest expansion of the federal budget since Barack Obama’s first term in office. It’s mind-blowingly bad.