Monday morning I awoke to the news that a deal had been struck to keep the government funded through the end of its fiscal year (September). That was a pleasant surprise since just last Friday the best Washington could do was a one week kick the can deal. The package, (which still needs to pass both chambers and gets the President’s signature), appears to be a rare example of cooperation between both Parties and among the House and Senate leadership along with the White House. That actually sounds like a functioning federal government which was worth interrupting my regularly scheduled posting. In the blogging world that is the equivalent of a stop the presses moment. Let’s explore.
While all entities are getting credit for making the deal happen I think we need to take a look at the real power dynamics at play. In order to do a credible analysis we have to separate the Trump administration from the Republican/Tea Party coalition in Congress (mostly playing out in the House). Trump did what he has been doing since taking office, he backed down – the American people should be grateful for that. I am far from a fan of Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan, but at least they have a clue of what their jobs entail. Ryan theoretically has the votes in the House to pass anything he wants regardless of what the Democrats do. The reality is that his caucus is divided into Republicans and Tea Party members who often cannot come to agreement which leaves him short votes without some (highly unlikely) Democratic defections. McConnell must deal with the filibuster on most issues and even when he can keep his caucus solid, (which he is very good at), he still needs eight Democratic votes. In the final analysis Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi used that leverage to obtain about the best deal they could under the circumstances.
Like any compromise there are parts I like and some that I am less a fan of. All and all the budget extension deal, (which I expect to pass and be signed this week), is a fair deal. It also represents one of the first, if not the first, time that the Trump administration has acted like a group of grownups. Let’s look at a few of the particulars of the deal.
An additional $12.5 billion was included for military spending. We almost undoubtedly don’t need to spend the money but it gave the Republicans something. Their other “victory” was adding $1.5 billion for border security. The Democrats guarded against it being used to start construction on the wall by adding restrictive language only allowing the funds to be used on technology and repairing existing infrastructure. I think all Americans are in favor of effective border security. Building a wall is simply not effective. (But it would provide a wonderful opportunity for people in the construction business to skim money.)
$4.6 billion was allocated to make a program aiding the coal mining community’s victims of black lung disease permanent was included. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was late to the party on this one; in fact the most vocal early advocate of this provision was Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Both of those facts need to be communicated in forthcoming elections! To me this is a non-partisan, American values move!
Democrats were able to add $295 million to help Puerto Rico with Medicaid along with $100 million to combat opioid addiction. In the process they were able to avoid any cuts to Planned Parenthood and science programs. These programs are not safe forever; it is merely a “see you in September situation”. The good news is we bought some time if nothing else.
$407 million was added to help fight wildfires in the West.
$61 million was allocated to help local law enforcement in Florida and New York pay for the extra security costs necessitated by Trump’s lifestyles of the rich and famous. That is a point that needs to be driven home in 2018 and 2020. Why are the taxpayers paying for his lifestyle? The rest of us adapt our lifestyle to our employment. Why can’t Trump?
Well, this is probably the most complimentary piece I have yet written about our new President. Could it be that he is finally starting to learn his job? Or is that too much to ask for? Time will tell.
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