November 15, 1999
Budget Standoff Continues
But Certainly Not for Lack of Money
Congress adjourned Wednesday but only temporarily as they will return Tuesday, November 16th in an attempt to complete the appropriations process. The target adjournment date was more than two weeks earlier on October 29th but due to presidential vetoes of five appropriations bills, the taxpayer-funded budget juggernaut rumbles onward. Spending levels do not appear to be at issue. In fact, the massive Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill authorized nearly twice as much spending as the last Democratic Congress in 1994. It, in fact, would spend $103.6 Billion dollars, which is $10.3 Billion dollars more than last year's appropriation. This is a figure that is, in fact, $1.2 Billion dollars more than Clinton requested in his proposed budget. What is at issue here is clearly not total spending but spending not directed to projects favored by the executive branch. It seems the President has found yet another way to legislate -- by Veto and threat of government shutdown.
The Constitution, of course, requires all appropriation bills to originate in the House, but when the Interior appropriations bill prohibited funding for implementation of the unratified Kyoto treaty and Clinton's Land Legacy Initiative government land grab at a taxpayer cost of $579 million, that bill was vetoed. Never mind that the infamous National Endowment for the Arts was funded at nearly double the level at which the Administration requested.
The Commerce Justice State Judiciary appropriations Act was sent to the President with an 11% increase over just last fiscal year (and we are told the era of big government is over). This bill's failure to dictate to the President's liking how state and local governments conduct law enforcement activity was the reason, in part, for this veto. Never mind that the Constitution's enumerated powers clause and tenth amendment leave this matter entirely up to the States.
But this year's budget process has brought us many other wonders, also. For example, the Defense Appropriations bill provides $1.7 Billion to fund this year's unconstitutional war in Iraq and Bosnia and $460 million dollars of military aid to the former Soviet Union. The VA/ HUD Appropriations Bill funded the Environmental Protection Agency at a record $7.6 Billion, 5% more than the Administration's request. The Environmental Protection Agency has now grown to more than 18,000 employees.
An across the board 1% spending cut to offset these spending increases?? In Washington, seemingly unthinkable. A tax cut bill to slowly phase out the federal inheritance tax, eliminate the marriage penalty tax, and make IRA retirement accounts more flexible and tax-friendly?? Vetoed.
The five remaining appropriations bills may be rolled into one omnibus bill for which a "yes" vote will fund $1 billion in un-owed back dues to the United Nations and dictate to state and local school boards how many teachers to hire, much to the delight of the National Education Association and teachers unions.
In light of Congressional appropriations of more and more expenditures and the Administration's use of legislation and micro-management by veto threat, it seems that almost everyone in Washington has somehow forgotten that the era of big government is supposed to be over.