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Senate Vote: 171     Vote Date: May 5th, 2015

Issue:  S. Con. Res. 11 — An original concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2016 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2017 through 2025. Question: On the Conference Report.   (The House agreed to the Conference Report on 4-30-15, Roll Call 183.)

Result: Agreed to in Senate, 51 to 48, 1 not voting.  Republicans scored.

Freedom First Society: In several critical ways this budget resolution is a sham calculated to deceive voters. The proper source for backbone in curtailing federal spending is the Constitution. Most of what the federal government does today is not authorized by the Constitution. The responsible goal for energizing America should be to eliminate unconstitutional programs, not to rely on trimming future spending to a “sustainable” level.

As experience shows, deferring the tough decisions for cutting spending to future Congresses doesn’t work. What’s needed is backbone now. And this resolution doesn’t show it.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Resolution Summary:  Establishes the congressional budget for the federal government for FY2016 and sets forth budgetary levels for FY2017-FY2025.  Guides the 12 appropriations committees. Sets forth rules for budget enforcement in both chambers.Analysis:   In several critical ways this budget resolution is a sham calculated to deceive voters.

The budget would ostensibly slash spending on education, infrastructure, and other domestic programs by $5.3 trillion over 10 years with no tax increases. “But most of the prescribed cuts will be ignored, as the new budget plan does not instruct congressional committees to implement them.” —Reuters, 5-5-15

Why 10 years?

GOP proponents hailed this resolution as putting us on a path to balancing the budget, not tomorrow, but in 10 years. However, as experience shows, deferring the tough decisions to future Congresses doesn’t work. What’s needed is backbone now.

Missing:  The Constitution!

The proper source for backbone in curtailing federal spending is the Constitution.   Unconstitutional programs must be eliminated or responsibly phased out.

Most of what the federal government does today is not authorized by the Constitution. That includes federal involvement in health care and education.

In the so-called political debate, there is an appalling lack of reference to what the Constitution authorizes and does not authorize. Instead, the arguments center on how to finance our bloated federal government in a “sustainable” way (e.g., trimming waste and rooting out fraud). The potentially explosive resurgence of American economic health will never occur if we are satisfied merely to navigate the edge of bankruptcy.

Senator Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, led the pro-resolution forces in the Senate debate over the budget resolution as it had been modified by a House-Senate conference committee.   Mr. Enzi:

“Even as we take in record revenues and taxes, our Nation is still unable to live within its means….

“To provide a clearer picture of how dire our Nation’s fiscal outlook is, if we were forced to balance the budget in 1 year, we would have to eliminate most of our defense spending, most of our highway spending, and most of our education spending. This drastic 50-percent cut would be needed because of our consistent overspending and our interest payments, which are set to explode.

“What are the two best ways to make a difference?

“First, Congress should look at the more than 260 programs whose authorization — the right to spend money — has expired….

“Now, there is a second way. The other way we can balance the budget is to grow the economy…. The Congressional Budget Office tells us that … if we were to increase the private sector growth by 1 percent, that would provide an additional $300 billion in additional tax revenue every year. I think that could balance the budget.”

 As is so typical of GOP leadership, Enzi accepts prior unconstitutional socialist inroads, such as Medicare, enacted by a Democrat-controlled Congress under President Johnson, and the federal Department of Education. Enzi makes no reference to the source of real backbone given us by our Founding Fathers — the Constitution.

As originally ratified by the States, the Constitution empowers the federal government to act only in a very few specific areas, such as national defense (see, e.g., Article I, Section 8).

A Balanced-budget Amendment

Another dangerous scam in S. Con. Res. 11, calculated to deceive conservatives, is the decades-old proposal for a balanced-budget amendment (BBA).   Section 6101 “POLICY STATEMENT ON BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT” states:

“It is the policy of this concurrent resolution that Congress should pass, and send to the States for their approval, a joint resolution amending the Constitution of the United States to require an annual balanced Federal budget.”

There are several things wrong with a BBA.   First, the proposal implies that the Constitution, rather than Congress, is at fault for unconstitutional spending. Next, even with sufficient support (a two-thirds vote in both chambers is required), most amendments require many years for ratification. Most proposals also include exemptions from balancing the budget in times of crisis. And, of course, there is a phase-in period of several years.

By contrast, a mere majority in a determined House of Representatives, given sufficient informed public support, could start eliminating unconstitutional spending tomorrow, using its power of the purse.

The bottom line: The BBA proposals, requiring a 2/3 vote in both chambers, are a deceptive substitution for serious action. Indeed, Senator Enzi indirectly admits that the purpose of the proposal is show:

“This budget also calls on Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That point is especially important because we must show taxpayers that Congress is committed to a balanced budget and not to overspending, so we can make our government more effective.” [Emphasis added.]

Even more serious, the BBA proposals are a dangerous substitute for real action.   Several groups, using the pretext that Congress won’t act to give us a BBA, are again calling on states to apply for a constitutional convention under Article V. Ignoring the opinions of many constitutional experts, these Article V convention proponents maintain that the states can limit a state-initiated convention to specific purposes. In reality, the whole Constitution it thrown up for grabs.

Repeal of ObamaCare

The budget resolution also makes it possible for a simple majority (not the normal 60 votes to permit consideration) in the Senate to pass a bill repealing ObamaCare. This “achievement” merely means that the GOP can pass another statement of opposition to ObamaCare that will be vetoed by the President.

But while the deficiencies in ObamaCare are regularly debated, particularly on Fox News, the prior socialist inroad in allowing the government to control the health care of seniors (Medicare) is accepted. Although everyone acknowledges that the exploding cost of Medicare is a problem, GOP leaders accept this intrusion, calling for reform, rather than working to phase out this improper function of the federal government:

“(b) Policy On Medicare Reform.—In the House of Representatives, it is the policy of this concurrent resolution to preserve the program for those in or near retirement and strengthen Medicare for future beneficiaries.”

Universal Coverage

In 2010, a recently elected President Obama, used the pretext of fighting the economic burden of recession, to push through a major advance in the socialist agenda — federally managed universal health care coverage.

Even though the GOP leadership has repeatedly decried the law (finding 6 in the budget resolution declares: “The President’s health care law is unaffordable, intrusive, overreaching, destructive, and unworkable”), the GOP-passed resolution still accepts ObamaCare’s unconstitutional expansion in federal responsibility.

The GOP now views the federal government as having responsibility to ensure universal coverage (even though GOP policy claims to oppose nationalization, at least temporarily):

(b) Policy On Promoting Real Health Care Reform.—

In the House of Representatives, it is the policy of this concurrent resolution that the President’s health care law should be fully repealed and real health care reform promoted in accordance with the following principles:

(2) AFFORDABILITY.—Real reform should be centered on ensuring that all Americans, no matter their age, income, or health status, have the ability to afford health care coverage. The health care delivery structure should be improved, and individuals should not be priced out of the health insurance market due to pre-existing conditions, but nationalized health care is not only unnecessary to accomplish this [it’s also a dangerous, unconstitutional power grab], it undermines the goal. Individuals should be allowed [by government] to join together voluntarily to pool risk through mechanisms such as Individual Membership Associations and Small Employer Membership Associations. [Emphasis and bracketed comments added.] 

Democratic Opposition

Of course, the GOP refusal, continued with this resolution, to not raise taxes or close supposed “tax loopholes” raised the opposition of Democrats wedded to socialist rhetoric. (All House and Senate Democrats voted against the resolution.)

Implicit in that rhetoric is the dangerous idea that it’s government’s job to achieve prosperity for the poor and middle class by managing the distribution of wealth. A recent House-passed measure to repeal the Federal Estate tax drew particular criticism. And so we don’t give credit to the Democrats for their opposition (i.e., we don’t score them on this one).

However, strong partisan wrestling matches merely obscure the fact that the dominant forces in both parties are leading America to disaster.