At long last, the Democrats’ insatiable appetite to pass one monstrous spending bill after another has caught up with them. And voter discontent – perhaps even wrath – is likely to extend to any Republican senator who chooses to enable this unrestrained spending habit.
Irresponsible spending by President Biden and congressional Democrats has created record levels of inflation, driving consumer prices up more than 13% since Mr. Biden took office. Price increases are now causing financial hardship among a majority (56%) of American households, a significant jump from January (49%) and November (45%). Irresponsible spending by Congress has needlessly tossed American families into an economic recession. The last thing voters want right now is even more spending and higher inflation.
For a brief lesson in civics, the budget process starts with the president proposing a budget plan to Congress in the spring. Congress typically ignores the president’s plan and creates its own tax and spending package wrapped up in one concurrent budget resolution. After the House and Senate settle, the details are settled in reconciliation. At the same time, budget appropriators hammer out spending bills for defense and discretionary spending items.
At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. In recent years, however, Congress has abandoned the discipline of the process designed to control spending and limit debt in favor of budget gimmicks such as omnibus spending packages or a series of continuing resolutions to keep the federal government operating.
This year is no exception. Instead of passing the annual appropriations bill before the end of the fiscal year, Senate Democrats recently proposed a continuing resolution (CR), a temporarily measure that would keep the government funded at current levels until Dec. 16. The postponement would allow vulnerable Senate Democrats to leave Washington and spend time on the campaign trail.
But if Senate Republicans foolishly accept a proposal to set a CR that expires in mid-December, they would be forced to swallow a big, unappetizing Christmas turkey. Even if Democrats lose their Senate majority in the midterm elections, lame-duck Democrats would still be able to force Republicans into the ultimate “heads I win, tails you lose” ultimatum: Agree to a massive all-or-nothing omnibus spending bill or take the blame for yet another government shutdown.
All Democrats need to pull this off is to hoodwink just 10 or more Republicans into going along with their CR proposal. But Republicans need to remember that this same scenario has played out many times before and has always resulted in a massive omnibus. In 2020, for example, Congress failed to pass its annual budget before the Sept. 30 fiscal year deadline. Instead, a CR was approved with bipartisan support to fund the government until Dec. 11. A government shutdown was averted, but at the cost of an ugly $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill.
This year, Democrats have already pushed to include a vast range of misplaced spending priorities in the appropriation bill. In July, they proposed bills enabling illegal immigration instead of border protection and relied on the appropriations process to advance radical environmental and climate policies, to name a few.
Voters recognize that the Democrats are attempting to repeat history and will not look kindly at Senate Republicans who facilitate it. Accommodating a December CR now would be to again summon chaos down the road in the form of an omnibus bill or a full-scale government shutdown. Republicans must stand united in favor of a CR that doesn’t expire until January 2023 – after the American voters have spoken and when the new Congress has been seated.
Senate Republicans have fallen for all this before, but they simply cannot this year. With inflation running rampant, the country cannot afford the spending that would be its inevitable result. Republicans have a moral and political obligation to draw a line in the sand this time and must do so. With families struggling with surging inflation, an economy in a recession, and future generations that now have to contend with the national debt of nearly $31 trillion and rising, Americans have had enough and are clearly not in the mood for more.
Senate Republicans who care about the future of the country, as well as those more concerned with their future political prospects, can ignore voter dissatisfaction this year only at their own peril.
• Tim Rupli has served in the executive and legislative branches of government and heads his own Washington-based governmental affairs firm.