Budget Showdown Ahead

I yearn for the days when people cared about the national debt, and when spending and taxes were the principal issues that divided Left from Right. Those issues haven’t receded because our fiscal situation has grown less dire; on the contrary. Currently, the federal government is forecasting $2 trillion a year deficits. With the fiscal year ending on September 30, a budget showdown is in the offing.

The Epoch Times reports:

The heart of the budget problem is two-fold: The government is divided, with Democrats in control of the White House and the Senate, while Republicans control the House, but only by the slim margin of four votes, which puts Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a headlock.

In order to be elected as speaker, Mr. McCarthy promised, among much else, a return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic spending levels and to get the House back to regular order on the budget. That means approving 13 major appropriations bills and avoiding temporary special measures such as continuing resolutions (CR) that maintain current spending levels for a set period of time or a monstrous omnibus spending bill that requires thousands of pages and gets only up or down votes in both chambers.

So the House Freedom Caucus will be front and center. Unless he allies with Democrats, McCarthy can’t get budget bills through the House without their concurrence. But time is running out, with 12 legislative work days remaining until the end of the fiscal year and only one of the 13 appropriations bills actually passed.

Many observers think a government shutdown is probable. That would be fine with me, and I think it would be fine with most voters. Some members of Congress are ready to draw a line in the sand:

Rep. Ralph Norman, the Georgia Republican who is both the No. 2 GOP member of the House budget panel and a leading HFC voice, told The Epoch Times that a $2 trillion deficit couldn’t be erased with tax increases because that destroys the economy. The only solution is to “reduce federal spending and eliminate the countless billions on ridiculous, useless, inappropriate projects that we cannot afford and do not need.”

Mr. Norman said he doesn’t know “how the process will play out when we come back to D.C. next week.”

“[But] I can tell you I am not voting for the status quo. I don’t care about reelection,” he said.

“I don’t care what the liberal media claims. I am not putting my head in the sand on this issue, and I simply will not support any appropriations bill that doesn’t contain meaningful, responsible spending reductions to keep us on a trajectory to balance the budget within the next nine to 10 years.”

Ultimately, spending can’t be seriously reined in without reforming and cutting back on entitlements, which is where the money is. But I don’t hear anyone saying that serious reform is even on the table, so anything we are talking about now is a short-term solution at best. Nevertheless, I would say, go ahead and shut it down. Or, in the language of a couple of shutdowns ago, let’s have a “temporary furlough of non-essential government workers.” Voters have learned from experience that talk of dire consequences from shutdowns is bogus, and I think there is enough residual concern about the national debt to make fiscal restraint a winning issue for Republicans.

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