As it turns out, the Trump administration followed a tried-and-true strategy for dealing with a budget clash. It agreed to spend more, as long as the increase somewhat favored the president’s priorities. The deal announced last night will cover the next two years’ topline budget numbers and suspend the debt ceiling until well after next year’s elections:
The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reached a tentative two-year budget deal Monday that would raise spending limits by $320 billion and suspend the federal debt ceiling until after the 2020 presidential election.
The agreement, which still must be passed by Congress, probably would prevent a debt-ceiling crisis later this year but also would continue Washington’s borrowing binge for at least two years. …
The agreement marks a significant retreat for the White House, which insisted just a few months ago that it would force Congress to cut spending on a variety of programs to enact fiscal discipline. Instead, the White House agreed to raise spending for most agencies, particularly at the Pentagon.
In exchange, White House officials received verbal assurances from Democrats that they would not seek to attach controversial policy changes to future spending bills, although it’s unclear how that commitment would be enforced.
Basically, both sides agreed to the red-ink deluge status quo, but perhaps that’s a bit too cynical. In these highly polarized times, just reaching this kind of agreement is an achievement in itself, no matter how unimaginative or bad it might be. Donald Trump certainly seemed pretty stoked last night about it:
….This was a real compromise in order to give another big victory to our Great Military and Vets!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2019
Give Trump credit, seriously, for nailing down an agreement with the caucus that’s currently battling over whether to impeach him. That credit gets split with Pelosi, who is trying mightily to quell impeachment talk so that Democrats can present some set of positive accomplishments on which to propose keeping their House majority in 2020. Given that the agreement holds parity on increases in military and social spending, it’s tough to see how this helps Pelosi, especially with her revolting progressive wing. (Read that one as you like.) Just the fact that she agreed with Trump on anything will set fire to their civil war again, at least with the activists.
That might be the only thing cheery about the agreement, our conservative friends at Issues and Insights gloomily conclude. Otherwise, it’s a “disaster of epic proportions,” John Merline writes, and also notes that Democrats are bragging that they got more than parity:
Three days after President Trump told his aides to look for deep cuts in federal spending for 2020, he agreed to a budget deal that blows a $320 billion hole in the spending caps and allows a two-year suspension of the debt ceiling. …
In fact, it is exactly how Washington has worked for decades. This is a place where politicians splurge today, and promise to repent tomorrow. And where “compromising” means adding your differences together, rather than splitting them.
Thus, as a result of this “compromise,” Democrats are boasting that not only did they get a huge boost in domestic spending, they are “pleased that our increase in non-defense budget authority exceeds the defense number by $10 billion over the next two years,” according to the statement issued by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
For good measure, the dynamic Democratic duo added that, with this deal, “Democrats secured an increase of more than $100 billion in funding for domestic priorities since President Trump took office.”
Merline’s correct about this being business as usual, and especially about addition rather than subtraction being the mode for resolving budget disputes. Congress has been spending pretend money for so long that it’s almost impossible for them to consider actual costs any longer. It’s certainly not politically possible for them to do so. What plays better with voters — restoring even a semblance of economic reality by enacting “a modicum of long-term spending restraint,” as Merline advises, or throwing more money at programs and calling it compassion?
Since we keep sending the same people back to Congress, that’s clearly a rhetorical question. Even the outsiders catch on quickly, unfortunately.
At any rate, that will at least avoid the ridiculous spectacle of Congress refusing to authorize borrowing the pretend money they’ve already appropriated, so that’s a “win” for everyone. By win, of course, I mean “not being humiliated over a phony issue that has nothing to do with the real problems at hand,” but Hot Air readers already know that shorthand. Yay team.
Here’s acting OMB director Russell Vought earlier today putting an extra layer of lipstick on this pig. Supposedly this will force Pelosi to “surrender her arms” on new riders for spending bills:
Vought focused on policy riders he said Democrats won’t be able to advance as a result of the pact, though final decisions won’t be made on fiscal 2020 appropriations bills until later in the year.
“There will be no new legislative riders to stop this president’s agenda on deregulatory initiatives or building the wall,” Vought told Fox. “The Hyde amendment, all of the pro-life protections that have been in years past are protected. No new legislative riders that the Democrats were seeking to roll back those protections would be something that would be considered.”
Uh … suuuuure. Good luck with that.