Republicans Talk Like They Have a Spine on Trump Budget Cuts

CORNYN: ‘I would certainly like to see us move on it…’

John Cornyn photo

John Cornyn/Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Senate Republican leaders may, kinda-sorta, perhaps, with some hesitation, be considering the idea of showing a few vertebrae, if not an entire backbone, in embracing some modest budget savings proposed by President Trump, in the face of predictable Democratic criticism.

As reported at Liberty Headlines on Tuesday, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi is shrieking that Trump’s proposed “rescissions” package would leave “children and families” short-funded while (referring to recently passed tax cuts) “handing enormous, unpaid-for giveaways to corporations and the wealthiest.”

Her second in command, Rep. Steny Hoyer, chimed in that the savings request, $15.4 billion overall, “defies logic” merely because it doesn’t also target defense accounts for cuts.

And Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called the proposal “outrageous.”

Against these straight-from-the-Democratic-playbook complaints, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been non-committal about taking up Trump’s request.

But now, according to The Hill newspaper, “Senate Republicans are warming to President Trump‘s proposal.”

“If the House is able to pass the rescissions package, we’ll take a look at it,” McConnell said.

That’s not much of an endorsement, but from the uncommunicative McConnell, it amounts to at least a miniature seismic shift.

And McConnell’s number two man, John Cornyn of Texas, was more definitive: “I would certainly like to see us move on it.”

John Kennedy Louisiana photo

John Kennedy/Photo by tammy anthony baker (CC)

Fiscal conservatives received even more of a boost when Louisiana Republican John Kennedy, not a hard-line firebrand, said he actually thinks the package “doesn’t go far enough.”

He added: “I will be on rescissions like a cat on a fat rat.”

In terms of the federal budget, a rescission is the withdrawal of spending authority for funds already appropriated by law, but not yet actually spent by executive agencies.

If the request comes from the president rather than being initiated by Congress, then Congress can pass it with simple majorities in both chambers, rather than needing to overcome a super-majority “filibuster” in the Senate.

In this case, Trump isn’t even suggesting (in most cases) trims from active programs, but rather from accounts that exist, for all intents and purposes, only on paper.

As even the liberal CBS News put it, “they come from leftover funding from previous years that wouldn’t be spent anyway.”

The account that serves as the basis of the Democratic propaganda is CHIP – the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Congress typically appropriates the excess money for CHIP so they can then “shift” it to other accounts later in the year while claiming they aren’t further inflating the deficits.

As even Hoyer admitted (undercutting Pelosi’s contention that Trump would hurt women and children), “It’s the availability of the money for filling holes where they exist.”

House Majority Leader Says Leadership Open to Ban of Bump Stocks

Kevin McCarthy/IMAGE: YouTube

To which, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the guts to offer what should be the obvious retort: “Why would you let [the money] sit there and waste and not give it back to the American public?”

As it is, Trump’s rescissions request is decidedly modestby historic standards.

It amounts to less than 2.5 percent of the federal discretionary domestic budget.

By comparison, the “Gingrich Congress” in its first year (1995) rescinded 6.4 percent of domestic discretionary spending, overcoming both the possibility of a Democratic filibuster and the antipathy of then-President Bill Clinton to do so.

And President Ronald Reagan overcame the Democrats’ 51-seat edge in the House in 1981 to push through rescissions at the same 6.4 percent level – along with another rescissions package, of more than 2.5 percent (and thus larger than what Trump is requesting), the very next year.

Reagan’s total two-year claw-back of already-passed spending was nearly four times as large as the one to which McConnell is reacting now with such caution – and Reagan did it without the bicameral Republican majorities that now exist.

And most of Reagan’s rescissions were from active programs.

As CBS explains [our emphases added], Trump’s requests aren’t:

“For instance, more than $4 billion in cuts to a loan program designed to boost fuel-efficient, advanced-technology vehicles wouldn’t result in fewer loans since the loans are no longer being made. And $107 million worth of watershed restoration money from the 2013 Superstorm Sandy aid bill is going unused because local governments aren’t stepping up with matching funds. Another $252 million is left over from the 2015 fight against Ebola, which has been declared over.”

Outside fiscal watchdogs endorsed the package.

It “isn’t going to fix the debt but it’s a start,” said Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, with deliberate understatement on the first part of her sentence.

And Tom Schatz of the Citizens Against Government Waste said that “unless members of Congress approve the rescission package on a bipartisan basis, taxpayers will continue to lose faith in the ability of elected officials to restore the nation’s fiscal health.”