Appropriations Offer Opportunity to Advance Trump's Agenda
Back in March, President Trump nearly vetoed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that many conservatives rightly described as fiscally irresponsible and lacking in important conservative policy wins, such as border security and internal enforcement measures. Citing much-needed funding for our military, President Trump signed the bill, but he made a vow to the American people that he “will never sign another bill like this again.”
In an effort to avoid another omnibus, Republican leadership has worked hard to move appropriations bills as quickly as possible, but in so doing has sacrificed policy for process. Particularly in the Senate, debate on spending levels and conservative policy riders has been shut down. In many cases, appropriations bills are written to attract Democrat votes, and the president’s requests for lower spending levels are routinely ignored.
The president didn’t issue a veto threat back in March solely because the omnibus bill was large and written at the 11th hour. His main objection involved the unnecessary and wasteful increases in domestic spending tied to a lack of conservative policy victories. Where was the sufficient funding for border security and Trump’s “Wall”? Where were the internal enforcement provisions to address sanctuary cities? Why did much-needed increases in defense funding come at the expense of wasteful and unnecessary increases in domestic spending?
What the president made clear in March seems to have been lost on many in the Republican conference. Passing appropriations bills through regular order does matter, but the content of those appropriations bills is far more significant. Furthermore, a legislative outcome bloated with higher spending and bad policy riders is evidence that the process isn’t as good as advertised.
Take the recent Senate minibus for example. Last Wednesday, the Senate passed a four-bill “minibus” that includes spending nearly $35 billion in excess of what the president requested. It does nothing to advance conservative policy, eliminate wasteful government programs, or reduce burdensome regulations on America’s farmers and businesses. In the words of Heritage Foundation analysts Justin Bogie and Daren Bakst:
The Senate minibus continues to provide funding for failed, wasteful, and inefficient programs that do not meet the standard of the core constitutional responsibilities of the federal government. It also fails to make progress on key conservative policies and reforms.
Or, to take another example, consider last week’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill. The House Appropriations Committee marked up and passed a DHS appropriations bill that undermines the president’s position on border security and internal enforcement. It strictly prohibits funding for the removal of non-citizens who are DACA recipients and contradicts the administration’s efforts to restore order on the southern border by expanding the asylum status definitions to include “credible fear” as an established reason for asylum. This could incentivize millions in Latin America to flock to the southern border and further exacerbate the family separation crisis.
At some point during this appropriations process, Republicans in Congress must take a stand with the president and the American people to fight for meaningful reforms — reforms they campaigned and won on. A great place to start is securing the southern border, enforcing U.S. immigration laws, and standing up for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. These are issues supported by the majority of Americans and a significant reason why President Trump is in the White House.
Republicans cannot and should not wait to secure the southern border until after the midterm elections. The president has demanded this action be taken now, and Congress should follow through on their own campaign commitments to do so. What better way to secure this win than through the DHS appropriations bill? The American people need to have clarity on where Republicans and Democrats stand on such an important issue.
Jessica Anderson is Vice President of Heritage Action for America. She was previously the Associate Director for Intergovernmental Affairs & Strategic Initiatives at The Office of Management and Budget.