- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 1999

The Republican Party is charging into the election year after a season of overwhelming success. From education and taxes to Social Security and the military, Republicans in Congress have reformed the way the government works. This year’s budget process will prove to be a milestone on the road to good government far into the future.

Budget battles typically are complicated. This year, however, Republicans simplified the agenda to concentrate on five keys to victory. Major goals were consolidated into re-establishing local control over education, cutting government waste across the board, rebuilding our national defense, protecting the Social Security surplus and balancing the budget without raising taxes. Republicans were successful on every item.

Despite Democratic opposition, Republicans have maintained that government spending must be brought under control without raising new taxes. The result is that budget surpluses are predicted into the future and our national debt is being paid off for the third year straight. In fact, $51 billion was paid off in 1998, $88 billion was paid off in 1999 and $131 billion in debt is projected to be paid off next year. At this rate, the current five trillion dollar debt will be eradicated in 15 years.

In his State of the Union address, President Clinton unveiled a proposal that would have spent 38 percent of the Social Security surplus on 81 new government programs. In the ensuing budget negotiations, Congressional Republicans unequivocally ruled out locking away one penny less than 100 percent of this surplus. All of the president’s demands for new and increased spending were rejected until the White House found offsets to pay for them. For the first time in four decades, Social Security has not been raided.

Taxes were not raised either. In the president’s budget, the White House proposed to cover spending increases with a $342 billion tax hike over 10 years. This initiative followed the president’s veto of the $792 billion tax cut that Republicans had passed in Congress. In short, congressional Republicans refused Mr. Clinton’s tax increase and insisted that spending cuts are the only responsible way to balance the budget. Eventually, he relented and an across-the-board cut in every federal program was agreed upon in the budget to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in government.

Fiscal debates often seem impersonal but many issues this year really hit home. Education and the military are two perfect examples. After seven years of neglect by the Clinton administration, our military was deemed unable to fight two simultaneous wars at once. Airplanes were routinely cannibalized for spare parts while soldiers trained without ammunition and thousands of our servicemen and their families lived on food stamps. This Congress reversed this disastrous trend and has begun to rebuild our armed forces by enacting a 4.8 percent pay raise for our troops and by providing $1.8 billion over the president’s request for defense.

Big strides were also made to improve the education of America’s youth as the Republican Congress wrestled control over education away from the federal government. As usual, the Clinton administration attempted to throw money at school problems with federal regulations attached to funds. But this year, Republicans fought for increased flexibility so that local schools could use portions of $1.3 billion for a variety of local initiatives, including professional development and intensive recruitment programs for teachers. A major victory for school choice was won through a voucher initiative that provides $135 million to enable parents to send their children to charter schools or other schools within a given school district.

In addition to the five keys to victory, Republicans also won major headway in other areas. For example, the president finally agreed to defund abortion advocacy overseas by acquiescing to pro-life restrictions on funds for international family planning; medical research was increased by 15 percent; 1,000 new border patrol officers were created; and $1.25 billion was added for state and local law-enforcement.

All of this was done while rejecting the president’s requests for massive increases in spending. While the president did receive funding for a few of his agenda items, he had to pay for everything he got and the end numbers are staggering. He got $338 million less than he wanted for the Interior bill, $885 million less for Foreign Operations, $890 million less for Commerce, Justice and State, and a whopping $5.5 billion below the president’s initial request for the Labor spending bill.

Overall, Republicans achieved all of their aims while the administration’s attempts to tax and spend were stifled. National priorities were bolstered while the budget was balanced without raising taxes or raiding the Social Security surplus. In the most recent Time-CNN poll, the Republican Party scored its highest approval ratings in two years while the Democrats faired worse than at any time in the last four-and-a-half years. These numbers bode well for next year’s elections.

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