The Omnibus Bill Was a Fiscal Disaster. Here’s How to Make Sure It Doesn’t Happen Again.

COMMENTARY Budget and Spending

The Omnibus Bill Was a Fiscal Disaster. Here’s How to Make Sure It Doesn’t Happen Again.

Apr 2nd, 2018 4 min read

Commentary By

Andrew Wofford

Special Assistant and Research Associate

Christian Andzel

Spring 2018 member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation

Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus bill in late March. ALEX EDELMAN/UPI/Newscom

Key Takeaways

Congress should amend the Budget Control Act of 2011 to make the budget caps applicable to all federal spending so that these one-sided results do not continue.

Our national debt continues to balloon out of control, growing larger than the size of our entire economy.

Without meaningful correction, Congress will be poised to eclipse the profligate spending levels of the Obama era, thereby abetting our government’s fiscal decline.

Our national debt continues to balloon out of control, growing larger than the size of our entire economy.

This trend has been accelerated by Congress’ two most recent pieces of budget legislation: the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which obliterated the previous discretionary spending caps, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which followed through on that promise to bust the caps and recklessly spend taxpayer money.

One of the reasons the “cromnibus” bill so quickly busted the budget caps is because Republicans were willing to furnish the left’s unreasonable appetite to raise domestic spending. The bill increased domestic spending by almost $2 for every $1 of defense spending increases, in addition to the inclusion of emergency funds.

Examples of this overspending range from “small” million-dollar pet projects in Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York to billion-dollar increases compared to last year’s budget.

For example, the National Institutes of Health received a $3 billion bump—an 8.8 percent increase from the year before—while the Department of Homeland Security’s federal assistance grants were awarded over 50 percent more than its budget estimates.

By eliminating billions in international welfare, Congress could efficiently offset the tens of billions spent on post-disaster recovery in the United States. Instead, we see hundreds of millions actually going to other countries’ recovery efforts when the mission at home is left unfinished.

The almost certain return of trillion-dollar budget deficits shows that Congress is no longer trying to steward the nation’s fiscal health. Our nation should not be spending hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster aid in foreign countries through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance when FloridaTexas, and Puerto Rico are still struggling.

The spending bill did secure long-needed increases for the military. Those increases will pay for new weapons, ships, and other equipment such as drones. Specifically, it funds 14 Navy vessels, 90 fighter aircraft, and gives military personnel about a 2.5 percent raise.

More funding will also go to military training, supplies, and equipment maintenance, which will directly support our military’s readiness and safety.

Despite these wins, the omnibus bill is a net loss as it concedes to Democrats on most domestic priorities, including giving $500 million of taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood. In busting open the deficit, Republicans are jeopardizing the economic benefits of tax reform.

Those in Congress who care about the country’s fiscal health need to take swift measures to make sure this pattern doesn’t continue.

Congress should amend the Budget Control Act of 2011 to make the budget caps applicable to all federal spending (which includes entitlements) so that these one-sided results do not continue. This would also help reign in out-of-control entitlement spending, which makes up over 63 percent of Congress’ entire federal budget.

Second, Congress should remove the defense/nondefense “firewall,” which allows special interests to shield their own priorities while disproportionally cutting others. Without the firewall, all discretionary spending would be subject to a single cap, which would force both parties to find more equitable cuts across the board and create more flexibility to stay under the cap each year.

This solution would also reset the current “two for one” discretionary spending trap that takes hostage Congress’ constitutional duty to fund the military.

This omnibus bill was unfortunately the final nail in the coffin for the 2018 budget. It tells the American people that despite politicians’ campaign promises and previous attempts to limit spending, Congress is now putting little effort into solving Washington’s fiscal crisis.

Without meaningful correction, Congress will be poised to eclipse the profligate spending levels of the Obama era, thereby abetting our government’s fiscal decline.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal