Reading the headlines, you would think that in Washington bipartisanship is the litmus test for determining what is “good” legislation.
Never mind if that legislation allows an increase in spending with money we don’t have, bypasses the proper legislative process and unsteadies the delicate balance of power that keeps our branches of government in check.
Who cares if it’s just plain bad policy? As long as there are compromises and deals, celebration follows. It is walked back slightly with the line: “No one got everything they wanted.”
We saw this most recently with the budget deal that was passed by the U.S. House on Wednesday.
The editorial boards of The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post previewed the agreement between Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama as “a big victory,” “a modest step in the right direction” and “the best achievable outcome.”
I disagree with those conclusions.
First and foremost, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, as it is so appropriately named, blows through the spending caps that Congress had previously established.
Four years ago, it appeared fiscal sanity finally set in. Now Congress has voted to push those spending restrictions aside and authorize $112 billion in additional spending over the next two years.
While the president is quick to cite declining annual deficits, he will never mention the ever-growing $18 trillion national debt accrued under his watch.
America’s financial charade is the equivalent of increasing the balance on a credit card every month while simultaneously over-drafting a checking account repeatedly, just not over-drafting as much as the previous time.
If I ran my business the way we run our government, I would have been forced out of my industry and my reputation would have soured long ago.
I fault those who believe responsible budgeting need not apply to the U.S. government, but the complete breakdown in the legislative process is to blame too.
Because this deal was made by few participants behind closed doors at the 11th hour, it was delivered to me and most of my colleagues as a take-it-or-leave-it. So I left it.
This 144-page bill was not brokered at the committee levels. It wasn’t debated. It was called for an up-or-down vote less than 48 hours after it was finalized.
Party leaders got together days before the U.S. risked another credit rating downgrade and presented a deal to sell off U.S. strategic petroleum reserves, cut crop insurance subsidies and take in savings from future cuts to entitlement spending.
Even recent history has shown we’re not good at honoring prior budgetary commitments. This is a perfect example of “kicking the can down the road” for later generations of Americans to deal with.
Strategically, this agreement encourages the executive branch to run wild.
The Obama administration has notoriously circumvented Congress whenever it can. We have seen this with immigration orders and environmental and labor rulings.
The power of the purse and ability to increase borrowing authority are among the few mechanisms Congress has to keep an out-of-control executive branch in line.
Even though Republicans control both chambers of Congress, we have foolishly handed over our bargaining chips by preemptively raising the debt limit through the beginning of the next administration.
Nothing good comes from this budget agreement — it is lazy legislating. Republicans traded promises they campaigned on just to make a deal, and an awful one at that.
Sticking to previously agreed-to spending measures is a must. Phony offsets nullify the exhausting work of previous negotiations and set nonbinding precedents.
Bills this large shouldn’t be rushed through the chambers. We know when deadlines are coming, and I hope under new House leadership the Republican Conference does a better job at planning appropriately.
Regardless of its bipartisanship, nothing about this budget deal should be applauded.
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, represents District 25, which stretches from Fort Worth south to near San Marcos.