“This represents the most favorable budget agreement Republicans have achieved in over a decade,” wrote Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) in a “Dear Colleague” letter over the weekend announcing his latest capitulation to Joe Biden.
Hmmm … where have we heard that bromide from GOP leaders before?
Seven months ago, Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, said his debt ceiling deal was “the largest cut that Congress has ever voted on” — even though it led to a $2.6 trillion increase in debt in a little over six months. Knowing that, maybe Johnson’s “best in a decade” hyperbole is an improvement.
Sadly, no. It’s the same Orwellian spending cut McCarthy forged. Worse, it locks in the McCarthy-Biden debt ceiling deal that led to the fastest expansion of the national debt in American history.
After refusing to fight on his first budget deadline in November, then selling out his conference on the National Defense Authorization Act in December, Johnson has one goal in mind heading into the twin January 19 and February 2 funding deadlines: Avoid a government shutdown at all costs.
Forget about the shutdown of our border, culture, economy, and liberty. In Johnson’s estimation, we must keep every agency of this government funded no matter what.
Well, when you telegraph the message to Democrats that you will not allow a single budget deadline to lapse — or even an authorization deadline to lapse, such as with defense and FISA — not surprisingly, Republicans have no leverage. Democrats pretty much get everything they want. Every. Single. Time.
Over the weekend, Johnson made a deal with the White House to pass a budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2024 along the lines of the 2023 debt ceiling agreement. The deal will allocate $886.3 billion for defense and $772.7 billion for nondefense programs, for a total of $1.658 trillion in discretionary spending. The agreement locks in an additional $69 billion in nondefense spending McCarthy accepted in a “side deal” with the White House in May that was not written into the law suspending the debt ceiling.
Johnson is using the oldest trick in the book to sell his conference on the deal by claiming he is cutting spending to offset the agreement top-lines, avoiding automatic scheduled cuts. But the trouble is that the spending cuts are actually “rescissions” that claw back $6.1 billion in unspent pandemic aid and $20.2 billion in IRS funding. That’s money that wasn’t needed anyway — and we could have secured those savings for free.
Following the principles of “Art of the Deal,” Democrats appropriated ungodly sums of money for 80,000 IRS agents in the 2022 Green New Deal bill, knowing it would be impossible to hire so many IRS workers even their wildest dreams. This gave them ample negotiating room to “give in” on new spending while still expanding the IRS to alarming levels. Ditto for the original sums of pandemic cash.
With interest on the debt now approaching $1.1 trillion a year and the Treasury Department slated to conduct more bond auctions than ever before, Johnson’s deal is the debt crisis equivalent of spitting in an ocean. Which is likely why our good friend Mitch McConnell was quick to praise the deal.
On paper, Johnson’s deal would only commit Republicans to the spending levels, not necessarily the funding, of various odious policies in contention. Theoretically, we could still fight over the border invasion, the Green New Deal, federal persecutions, and transgenderism within the federal government, along with funding of the COVID vaccines — just to name a few of the points of consternation on the right.
Johnson is making the case to Republicans that forging a spending deal would allow Republicans to “fight for important policy riders included in our House fiscal 2024 bills.”
It’s clear, however, that Johnson fears a government shutdown more than he fears the government shutting down our life, liberty, culture, and sovereignty. He has made it clear he will not allow a deadline to lapse, even when it doesn’t result in a full shutdown. Johnson is unwilling to cut anything.
The appropriation bills for agriculture, energy, water, military construction, veterans, transportation, and housing and urban development are set to expire on January 19. The rest of the federal government’s appropriations are slated to expire two weeks later.
It’s do-or-die time for House Republicans. If they are scared of a shutdown during an invasion, inflation, and government indoctrination crisis under the stewardship of a half-comatose and unpopular president, there is no way they would fight through a shutdown under a Republican chief executive. This is precisely why Republicans gave Democrats everything they wanted in 2017 and 2018 when they controlled the trifecta but lacked 60 votes in the Senate.
You can swap out the leadership of the Republican Congress, but some things never change. They forge the same deals with the same talking points every single time. Rest assured, they will always fight “the next time.” Until we’re ruined.