Turns Out Congressional Republicans Don't Really Want to Cut Spending

GOP politicians admit that President Trump's draconian cuts to the regulatory state aren't going to happen.


No, fuck you, cut spending. ||| Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In a post yesterday about President Donald Trump's record number of Congressional Review Act-enabled repeals of regulations, I tacked on a bullet-pointed list of other Trumpian moves to roll back the regulatory state. Not included was his proposed budget, despite the fact that it features impressive year-over-year cuts to the executive branch—30.4 percent from the Environmental Protection Agency, 20.7 percent from the Departments of Labor and Agriculture, and so on. So why didn't I include Trump's proposed deconstruction of the administrative state? Because presidents don't pass budgets, and congressional Republicans don't want to cut spending.

Last night, in an episode of The Fifth Column, I asked the great libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) to assess the realistic possibilities that Congress this year will approve such budgetary measures as a 30-plus percent cut in the EPA. "You want me to give you odds?" Massie said. "I'd go with five percent odds."

To be clear, Massie is in the lonely minority that would delight in taking a machete to the regulatory state—the man did, after all, propose a one-sentence bill last month to abolish the Department of Education. But as we lurch from the Ryancare debacle to yet another self-inflicted government shutdown deadline of April 28, congressional Republicans are already going on the record as saying Trump's cuts, as predicted in this space, ain't happening.

"We just voted to plus up the N.I.H.," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), complained to The New York Times, referencing Trump's proposed $1.2 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health. "It would be difficult to get the votes to then cut it."

Also balking at the N.I.H. cuts are Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) ("It's penny-wise but pound-foolish") and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who told the Washington Examiner that "You don't pretend to balance the budget by cutting life-saving biomedical research when the real cause of the federal debt is runaway entitlement spending."

More GOP objections, as reported by the NYT:

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, was more blunt. "I think it is too late for this year," she said about the proposed cuts, echoing several Republican colleagues. As for a border wall, which is not well supported by American voters, "that debate belongs in the next fiscal year," she said. […]

"I'm not going to spend a lot of money on a wall," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "I'm not going to support a big cut to the N.I.H. I'm not going to support big cuts to the State Department."

Recall, too, that Robert Draper of The New York Times Magazine quoted a "top House Republican staff member" on Trump's agency cuts thusly: "even the cabinet secretaries at the E.P.A. and Interior are saying these cuts aren't going to happen."

So these are your politics for the next calendar month: The media and various activist/constituency groups will sound a never-ending alarm about the terrible effects of Trump's heartless budget cuts, while a unified Republican Congress that cannot even pass a budget anymore blunders along toward another artificial government-funding deadline that will likely result in some kind of spending deal that does not, in fact, cut spending. Good work, America!

NEXT: Just What America Needs: A Government Truth Squad

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  1. Turns out Congressional Republicans Don’t Really Want to Cut Spending

    ::dies of shock::

  2. Yes, in other news, people ignore that horrible debt the black guy was tying their grandchildren into.

    reason.com Republicans pretending to be libertarians can rejoice that the mainstream media will never bring it up

  3. One-sentence laws to abolish entire departments. From the “it’s so simple it must be a good idea” school of thought.

    1. You mean like Medicare for all?

    2. When your dog shits on the floor, you don’t have a debate on the amount of polish it will take to make the floor-shit an acceptable addition to your home. You clean it up.

      You, on the other hand, hail from the “something is better than nothing” school of thought that’s really good at ignoring the active harm caused by “something”. Maybe that part of your brain is damaged.

      1. I appreciate perfectly well why rightwingers want to abolish standards for education.

        1. It can’t be because ‘rightwingers’ want to replace the standards they abolish with their own, or they would just do that instead.

        2. Being called an idiot on a regular basis led you to appreciate those that question your credentials?

        3. Seeing as to how you have a history here of posting as a clueless moron, I’m pretty sure you have absolutely no idea as to why ‘rightwingers’ (do you mean libertarians, dipshit?) would prefer a decentralized education model to one that, for example, just cost my boy multiple weeks of school time preparing for and taking a bunch of useless Federally-standardized assessment tests that did absolutely *nothing* to further his education?

          1. Has anyone ever done a study that looks at the relative returns of a dollar used (so stole or made up) by govt vs invested privately? I guess creating an objective scale to measure organizations’ success by would be the first step, and maybe an impossible one. I dunno, but if you’re interested in improving peoples’ lives, you would want to use whatever money spent towards that end as efficiently as possible, I would think. I mean I’m not any sort of scholar, there could definitely be something like that I don’t know about, but that seems like it cwould be a pretty powerful argument, assuming Im not wrong about what it would say.

        4. Didn’t a lot of non-right wingers freak out when W Bush implemented some federal standards for education?

          I’m not sure why education isn’t a think states and school districts can’t figure out on their own. It’s not as if there wouldn’t be standards without the federal DOE.

          1. If the DoE were abolished, we’d probably revert to a more primitive stage of development, like when we put men on the moon.

            1. It’s been a very blah day. Thank you for this one.

        5. Simply put, centralized standards for education for the entire nation is a bad idea for a variety of reasons.

          These reasons include, but are not limited to, if the standards are poor standards than everyone in public education suffers and it removes competition.

          You’ll note, just as an example, how those central planners who demand more money or more standards in education send their children to private school. They don’t want your kids going to the same private school as their kids with a waiver. They want you under the control of a public union that spans the entire nation and puts teachers ahead of students.

          If you need any kind of proof regarding teacher union priorities, you’ll note that they can walk out or strike and have done so many times in the past even though those directly impact students. You’ll also note that their standards involve length of service over any kind of objective measure of performance on their part. Those are not ‘student centric’ things on any level. They’re just lucky enough to be public sector workers who can literally always use the ‘for the kids’ argument.

    3. Sometimes it’s best to just cut out the cancer, no matter how much it hurts up front.

    4. Re: Tony,

      One-sentence laws to abolish entire departments. From the “it’s so simple it must be a good idea” school of thought.

      You’re right, it can’t be that simple. The bill should have TWO sentences. The second one should say “So, what are you waiting for?”

      Otherwise shit don’t get done.

  4. It is terribly surprising that a majority of the political class have limited interest in defunding the political class. The ones that doi are the wierdos, the outcasts, the unrealistic folks.

    Who knew politics was not incentivized for limited government?

    1. Hitler?

  5. Nice alt-text.

    *standing ovation*

  6. Another Fifth Column already? What’s going on here?

    1. Scheduling is hard.

  7. I was disappointed years ago when a poll of tea-party types, who seemed to wanting fiscal sobriety, didn’t want any sort of spending reductions. If even they didn’t want spending cuts, then it seems hopeless.

    1. Because modern polling has turned out to be so predictive?

  8. Turns Out Congressional Republicans Don’t Really Want to Cut Spending = repubes are power-worshiping, sociopathic con-artists, content with the use of coercion by ever-growing thugstate to further their political ambitions

  9. “Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who told the Washington Examiner that “You don’t pretend to balance the budget by cutting life-saving biomedical research when the real cause of the federal debt is runaway entitlement spending.””

    Actually, he does make a pretty good point.

    1. You don’t pretend to balance a household budget by buying less monogrammed towels when the real cause is your rent either, but if you take Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey a budget with $1500 for rent and $200 for monogrammed towels I know which one is getting cut first.

      (Not so much a criticism of your post as pure snark, as I’m totally on board with entitlement reform).

    2. He has a point in a way…but that’s only if you believe government is the only entity to find research.

  10. The header implies that Trump wants to cut spending. He doesn’t, he just wants to shift it from non-military to military.

    1. That’s been my takeaway from the start. Trump doesn’t want to cut spending, he just wants to transfer spending from domestic programs and funnel it straight into the military. Because apparently having the #1 military on the planet just isn’t good enough.

      I suspect that ‘the establishment’ is loving Trump because of this. Both Democrats and Republicans seem to be getting off on the whole ‘go to war with Russia’ thing so it doesn’t bode well in my book if we’re transferring money into the military without spending cuts.

      It’s actually a good thing in this case that Democrats simply can not stand for their favored programs to be cut by even a penny because it means that they probably won’t go along with Trump’s agenda even though they desperately want to go to war with Russia. It’s mainly just because Democrats want NPR and military adventurism whereas Trump only wants the military adventurism.

      Go figure. Honestly, in my opinion, I would prefer the exact reverse of this situation. It would almost have to be cheaper.

  11. Turns Out Congressional Republicans Don’t Really Want to Cut Spending

    Wait… you mean, all those times when Republicans campaigned on cutting spending… it was all…. a LIE??


  12. Apparently Susan Collins applies the same logic to budget cuts as fat people do to dieting.

    Look, in a few months it’s swimsuit season and then I’ll totally cut back. But it’s too late for that right now, and I already ordered this large pizza. It would be irresponsible not to eat it in a single meal!

    *three months later* Look, LOTS of people wear t-shirts to swim in.

    1. I just threw up in my mouth at that thought…..zinggg.

  13. Will Trump use the now effective debt ceiling as a weapon? What if he stops paying Congressional salaries? Puts the wars on hold?

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