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The only thing more insufferable than watching Congress govern-by-crisis, is watching Congress govern by self-manufactured crisis. Can we finally stop pretending that House Democrats took back the majority with intentions to advance a policy agenda?
The partial government shutdown (most of the government continues to run as normal) is proof that House Democrats are not interested in passing legislation. The Democratic Party has become a single-issue party, to derail the Trump White House at every opportunity.
The strategy is simple: Stand for nothing and oppose everything. Make sure President Trump doesn’t win, even if it means America loses. If you can’t win using regular order, paralyze the process with shutdown threats and a parade of subpoenas and investigations.
Congressional Democrats blame the shutdown on President Trump’s $5 billion request for border wall funding. House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, who once requested nearly $200 million of luxury private jets, opposes the national security initiative on the grounds of fiscal responsibility. (Pause for laughs.)
Rep. Pelosi also called the concept of a U.S.-Mexico border wall “immoral.” This probably makes carpooling to the White House a little awkward with Sen. Chuck Schumer, considering he voted to approve a border fence in 2006, along with then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
You really can’t make this stuff up.
Spending $5 billion on a border wall is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the current federal budget, less than 1 percent to be exact. It’s certainly not an amount worthy of shutting the government down, especially when considering the House has already approved $5.6 billion for the exact purpose of a border wall.
Of course, this political arm-wrestling contest has never been about money (or principles) for Democrats. Party influencers are jockeying for positions on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary stage, and they’ve selected the border wall fight as the keynote issue to fire up the most extreme wing of their base.
You know what they say in our nation’s capital: Never let a crisis go to waste. And when you can’t find a crisis, just make one up.
Congressional leadership’s bipartisan drift away from regular order has created a recurring opportunity to hold the government hostage for political gain. To paraphrase the president, the annual appropriations process has become “a complete disaster.”
Regular order refers to the procedure of debating and voting on many smaller individual spending bills in the House and Senate, rather than making one huge omnibus spending deal in the eleventh hour under threat of a shutdown.
Dividing appropriations bills into pieces provides a chance for debate, transparency, and accountability in spending. It also prevents legislators from holding the funding of one program hostage to influence the debate over another unrelated issue.
The budget was never meant to be negotiated by leadership behind closed doors, it is supposed to be debated and voted on the floor by all representatives.
As Rep. Justin Amash recently tweeted:
"Here’s a radical idea: How about the new speaker allow some floor amendments, so that representatives can weigh in on individual items, including the wall, in the gigantic spending bill? You know, operate as a deliberative body. It’s not that hard to do better than @SpeakerRyan."
Screening amendments, suppressing debate. The “world’s greatest deliberative body” is not authorized to deliberate much of anything these days without a green light from leadership. It sounds more like an oligarchy than a representative democracy.
Congressional leadership can grandstand in front of the media and feign outrage at the “Trump shutdown,” but in corrupting the appropriations process, they created the political environment that allowed the shutdown to happen in the first place.
Republicans lost control of the House because they failed to keep their promises to the American people. They spent like drunken sailors, and the national debt suffered the hangover.
If Republicans want to redeem themselves and get serious about spending cuts, they can start by fixing the process by which spending is approved. We need a return to regular order.