This Week in Congress Update

The Senate’s debate on the budget is heating up as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are working to increase military spending by busting the spending caps that limit spending. Fortunately, Senator Rand Paul is fighting to preserve the caps. Unfortunately, he is fighting a lonely battle as most Republicans are either siding with McCain and Graham over spending or are perfectly happy to increase spending as long as they get “tax reform.”

Some even say that the failure to cur spending makes it more important to have “pro-growth” tax reform. Of course the truth is that increased spending cancels out the benefits of pro-growth tax reform.

Matt Welch of Reason Magazine elaborates:

While the Angry Birds vs. Wacko Birds angle is probably too irresistible, the biggest ongoing story here might be just how isolated Paul's views about actually cutting government have become now that Republicans control the levers of power. In a Politico article about tax reform yesterday, Paul said something that would have been routine for a Republican in 2011-2014, but vanishingly rare in 2017: "I'm a huge deficit hawk. My opinion has always been that you pay for a tax cut with spending cuts….And everybody else up here thinks you should pay for a tax cut by increasing somebody else's taxes."

What are all of those deficit hawks doing now? Vigorously waving the white flag.

ReasonAs mentioned here two weeks ago, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who just 30 months ago was excoriating GOP deficit spenders by saying such things as "There is no honest way to justify not paying for spending, no matter how often my fellow Republicans try," has now completely flipped the script, arguing that "We need to have new deficits." In the Politico tax-reform article, Mulvaney was even more clear:

"They simply do not have the political will on the Hill to solve this through the spending side of the equation," he said. "So we have to move to the revenue side."

This is a remarkable admission. The Tea Party wave of legislators came to Washington beginning in 2010 on explicit promises to cut spending and debt, and roll back Obamacare. They did a decent job using their House majority to restrain spending from 2011-2014, but beginning with Republicans re-taking the Senate in November 2014, fiscal conservatism has waned while GOP power has waxed. As Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) complained to me in an early 2016 interview,

They're always promising that next time we'll be better. "We need the House," then "we need the Senate," then "we need the White House," then "we need a supermajority"—it seems like they're never really interested in actually doing anything in the present. The excuse is usually that we don't have the votes or we don't have the right president to sign the bill, but that highlights the problem with their thinking. They're not interested in persuading people. They're interested in waiting.

Another putative fiscal conservative offering shrug emojis to spending cuts is Amash's own close colleague Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), chair of the House Freedom Caucus. From the Politico article:

Meadows…predicted Republicans will never have the nerve to cut spending, so they have to pass steep tax cuts to spur growth: "What you have to do is you have to mitigate the damage by being as aggressive as you can be on tax rates, which would lessen the damage of our lack of fiscal responsibility over time."

Funny, I don't remember that particular Tea Party slogan: We're too chicken to cut spending, so at least we'll blow up the debt!

This is a far, far cry from where Meadows was in February 2013, when, just after coming into office, he co-sponsored the Require a PLAN Act, mandating that "if the President's fiscal year 2014 budget does not achieve balance in a fiscal year covered by such budget, the President shall submit a supplemental unified budget by April 1, 2013, which identifies a fiscal year in which balance is achieved." In other words, then-president Barack Obama would be required to explain exactly when and how he would eventually balance the budget.

"It's time for the federal government to do what Americans—hardworking, taxpaying, Americans and small business owners across the country have to do: balance a budget and live within our means," Meadows said on the House floor. "The time is now."

Read the whole article here.

Campaign for Liberty members should call their Senators and tell them to stand with Rand and oppose busting the budget caps.

At least most of the GOP is rejecting Senator Lamar Alexander’s bipartisan health insurance compromise. The compromise is a bailout of the insurance companies combined with a watered down version of the Obamacare renewal bill that failed to pass the Senate this summer. The plan would:

-- Continue federal payments for two years to insurers for reducing out-of-pocket costs like co-payments and deductibles for lower-income consumers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the government will spend around $20 billion on the so-called cost-sharing reductions over the next two years. Trump blocked the payments last week.

—Provide $106 million in grants to states to pay for outreach and enrollment programs for encouraging people to sign up for health care coverage. Trump cut spending for the programs. The money comes from already collected taxes.

—Let states get federal waivers from some requirements under President Barack Obama's health care law if their proposed new programs are of "comparable affordability" for consumers to existing programs. That gives states more flexibility than the existing requirements that replacement must be "at least as affordable" as the current one. Language protects low-income populations, vulnerable populations and people with serious health conditions.

--Increases flexibility by requiring states' proposed changes to not increase federal deficit over the multi-year life of waivers, not each individual year.

—Shortens from 180 days to 90 days the time the federal government has to review state waiver applications. Speeds reviews for states seeking same changes as other states and for emergencies. Lets governors approve a state's waiver without requiring legislature's consent.

—States could not get waivers from covering services required by Obama's law, or from the statute's protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

—Lets people of any age buy some low-premium, high-deductible catastrophic plans. Obama's statute limits those policies to people under 30 and those who are older who qualify due to economic hardship.

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