Government Spending

The Senate Budget Deal Proves Republicans Love Government Spending

The GOP leadership cheers on a bipartisan spending spree.


McConnell and Ryan
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Warning: This post contains numbers that may upset anyone who dreams of a smaller government.

With the Senate budget deal announced yesterday, congressional Republicans have proved that they aren't merely big spenders: They bear primary responsibility for Washington's complete lack of fiscal responsibility. At the same time, they have reaffirmed the fact that bipartisanship means a determination to spend us into oblivion.

The bipartisan budget deal that the senators proclaimed so proudly yesterday would add $300 billion over two years to discretionary spending, not counting emergency funds and other add-ons. It would yet again burst the budget caps that Republicans negotiated in 2011 during a debt ceiling deal in exchange for giving more borrowing authority to the Department of Treasury. The debt ceiling would be hiked once again, allowing the Treasury to keep borrowing without asking Congress for an increase. Legislators wouldn't even have to pretend they care about how fast our national debt is growing.

Trillion-dollars deficits are coming back fast and probably are here to stay. And this time you can't blame that on a recession or a major war. It's a direct result of a Republican spending binge—an unwillingness to couple tax cuts with reductions in spending.

Republicans claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, but the GOP has repeatedly broken the budget caps imposed during the Obama administration. Yes, Democrats were often partners in these deals; they get a good portion of the blame too. But they have never pretended that they wanted these budget caps. And they could not have repeatedly broken through federal spending limits without Republicans leading the effort.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 imposed separate caps on military and nonmilitary spending. Yet before the ink of President Obama's signature was dry on that deal, Republican hawks were throwing fits about imposing any fiscal restraint whatsoever on the Pentagon. The party that won't shut up about fraud and abuse in government when it's in the minority also believes that military spending is immune to waste, fraud, and abuse. Republicans refuse to accept that the Pentagon budget is burdened by a poorly designed spending strategy, which leads to malinvestment and outdated military goals. They also seem to believe that an increase in Pentagon spending always, always, always leads to more security and that the military budget should always go up, even when we are not at war.

As a result, we've repeatedly witnessed Republican hawks make deals with Democrats that amount to mutual back scratching: You can spend more at home if we can spend more abroad.

This week's deal resembles those earlier ones in many ways, except that it's even worse. Military spending caps were $549 billion. The Senate wants to jack that up to $629 billion, with an addition $71 billion for war supplementals and emergency funding. The total for this year would be a cozy $700 billion, rising to $716 billion in the 2019 fiscal year.

In exchange, the Democrats get to hike nonmilitary spending by $131 billion over two years. The spending cap in this area stood at $516 in the 2018 fiscal year. It will now be $579 billion, with an extra $12 billion for war supplementals. That results in a sweet balance of $591 billion this year and $605 billion in the 2019 fiscal year. All this extra money will be spending on largely bipartisan priorities, such as infrastructure and the opioid crisis. The deal will probably pass in the House, despite the objections of the Freedom Caucus.

Worse still, the Republican leadership is trying to sell this spending spree as a bipartisan budget victory.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admits that it isn't perfect. But he says he was glad to finally get a longer-term budget agreement. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, meanwhile, is trying to appease disgruntled Republicans by noting that Democrats didn't get much more than what the Republicans themselves wanted. If that's the bipartisan way to get a budget agreement, maybe it's time for gridlock and chaos.

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  1. “Republicans claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, but the GOP has repeatedly broken the budget caps imposed during the Obama administration. Yes, Democrats were often partners in these deals; they get a good portion of the blame too. But they have never pretended that they wanted these budget caps. And they could not have repeatedly broken through federal spending limits without Republicans leading the effort.”

    I don’t see how you can say this makes Republicans worse than Democrats. I’d say it makes them effectively about the same.

    1. Democrats have the mentality of children, as a consequence, they have no agency, therefore they cannot be held responsible for whatever position they take.

      The problem is that the majority of the voters don’t care and claim they prefer harmony to discord in Congress. There is very little incentive to be a fiscal hawk except for some districts. They are likely to get raked over the coals for being “kooky” and “unreasonable” and not understanding how Washington works.

      1. I think some voters care but the current political system design is that upset Republican voters either vote for a Democrat or don’t vote and a Democrat wins anyway.

        At least with Libertarians gaining more ground, upset Democrats and Republicans can vote for Libertarians. You can tell the smart ones in the GOP and Democratic Party because this scares the shit out them.

        1. Are they more afraid of the accomodationist libertarians like Larry Sharpe or the real ones like Arvin Vohra?

          1. I wish those guys would not be on the Libertarian team.

            A big flaw with good Libertarians is our immense skepticism of government, so few of us enter politics to change the options for voters.

        2. I did not say there were no voters, just that there are not enough to make a majority over the entire electorate or be that influential in most districts. Especially when budhet discussions become less abstract and more on specific programs.

          Fiscal hawk voters generally do not threaten most of our elected officials, therefore there is little gained by paying attention to them.

          You need to convince the voters otherwise, but de Rugy is making a partisan argument that lets the party of government off the hook for its role. That take can only make things worse.

    2. The “both parties are just as bad” is really not true.

      There are differences but the Republicans have really given up on spending cuts since Reagan.

      Its good for Libertarians to be so different than both parties. Hopefully more Americans see that.

      1. There are plenty of ‘libertarians’ who are, in this sense, just like Republicans. Both purport to be for fiscal responsibility, but are really only in it for the control. In that sense they only differ on which social issues matter.

        The thing is, to an actual libertarian fiscal responsibility is not an ends, it is merely the best means to limited government.

        Which neither those particular Republicans nor those particular ‘libertarians’ truly want.

    3. I think the frustration with the GOP is with their hypocrisy. Libertarians and small-government conservatives are well aware that mainstream Republicans have no intention of not raising the budget, but the GOP continues to entice good-faith voters with this blatant lie.

      They’re all the same, but many people don’t realize that.

      1. The GOP would be more popular if they stopped pushing religious and anti-abortion agendas.

        The old people, especially Boomers, just don’t want their social security and medicare cut. They’ll be dead by the time our debt crushes us. Selfish as hell.

        1. That mantra really does not hunt anymore, edpecislly since religious agenda nowadays is reactionary to violations of religious freedom.

      2. small-government conservatives are well aware

        What do the four-sided triangles think?

    4. Democrats don’t prance around saying they’re against deficits as like their number 1 domestic priority and then proceed to explode the deficits every chance they get. Even if you ignore the hypocrisy, they’re still better on fiscal responsibility, historically speaking.

      1. When both parties are catastrophically bad, “better” and “worse” are irrelevant.

    5. Exactly right. At least a small minority of the Republicans in Congress are against it: Rand Paul, the Freedom and Liberty Caucuses. They’re the only ones on our side. Veronique has unfairly brushed ALL the GOP as breaking the budget caps and supporting spending. She’s right about them claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility, but anyone who’s watched their votes closely, it’s not all of them. While it’s all the Democrats.

      It’s up to libertarian, independent, and conservative voters to rid the country of RINOs that control the GOP. And they are but very slowly. Cantor got primaried, and a bunch of RINOs have resigned. Considering only 31 of the GOP reps are in the Freedom Caucus, out of 240 Republicans and 435 representatives total, there’s a long way to go towards fiscal responsibility and limited government.

      1. Agree. At least on the R side there is some faint glimmer of hope. I don’t see any such faint glimmer on the D side.

    6. Paul Ryan, meanwhile, is trying to appease disgruntled Republicans by noting that Democrats didn’t get much more than what the Republicans themselves wanted.

      Doesn’t that mean the Democrats are worse? Not-much-more is, still, more.

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  2. Is this where we root for Dem control of Congress next year and cross our fingers that they don’t unload some giant freedom-destroying turd they no doubt have up their sleeves?

  3. To be fair the media, lefties, and old folk special interest groups threaten that every Republican will be voted out of office if they cut spending.’

    Real unfortunate that there are few fiscal conservatives in the GOP since there are none in the Democratic Party.

  4. Did we actually need proof of this? Some of us had noticed it already, a few decades ago in my case.

  5. I’m glad these things come with a trigger warning now.

  6. If McConnell doesn’t shiv Schumer in the kidney at the end of this I’m going to think he’s been taken over by a new host.

  7. It’s a well spread fallacy that America’s major parties have a Left and Right split. Both the DNC and GOP are leftist parties. They both believe in big, powerful and debt funded government. Where they differ are on a handful of social issues and which parts of your life they want to control the most.

    As out government swings from “left to right” the effect is that both sides slowly gain ground and control over more parts of its citizens lives.

  8. This isn’t about beliefs, it’s about corruption. The republicans don’t actually believe that America is in danger, they get campaign donations from defense contractors in exchange for larger defense spending. The core issue here isn’t the political beliefs of either party, but the fact that the way you get elected is by having a better funded campaign, and campaign donations come from corporations in exchange for favorable legislation. It’s institutionalized bribery.

  9. Alas, it’s Darwinian evolution. Once buying votes with borrowed money was a viable option, any politician who proposed to balance the budget and actually tried to would be outbid for votes, and be replaced by somebody who’d borrow the money.

    You can get away with lying about meaning to, but actually attempt it, and you’re politically dead. The parties have evolved accordingly.

  10. “The Senate Budget Deal Proves Republicans Love Government Spending”

    Anybody who didn’t already know that the Republicans in Congress love spending wasn’t paying attention during the G.W. Bush presidency..

  11. With bipartisanship like this, who needs representative democracy?

  12. Dr. de Rugy shocked, shocked to learn that Donald Trump will follow the same “tax less, spend more” fiscal policies as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Welcome to not-Kansas, Dorothy.

    1. Have you been brainwashed? Google Reagan’s Grace Commission. Learn

      Peter Grace, a Perot-style entrepreneur, organized hands-on managers and accountants to go out into federal agencies, proposed massive spending cuts that Cato calculates would have saved $10 Trillion by 2010. The GOP buried it in committee. Reagan then began asking for a line-Item veto. So while kicking the GOP in the balls is quite justified … do you also believe Obama inherited the worse recession since the 1930 … and/or worse that what Reagan inherited?

  13. this is TOTAL BS.

  14. Who needs more proof?
    Left – Right = Zero

  15. The sequester was the only good piece of legislation passed during the Obama years.

  16. It just proves Republicans can’t drive a harder bargain. That’d probably be just as true of the voters as of their elected officials.

  17. “Republicans claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility…”

    Yep, that’s what they’ve always claimed, even as they consistently outspent the Democrats. Now, they are the party of the lunatic fringe, so I think we have bigger problems than how they spend money we’ll have to print up later. I’m actually relieved they can do something resembling governing.

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