Conservatives on Capitol Hill were gratified on Monday when the Trump administration announced that the president would be sending the first of several rescissions packages to Congress, asking lawmakers to cancel $15 billion in already-approved spending.
“Tomorrow the president is going to be using his authority under the Impoundment Control Act to send up the largest rescissions package in history from a president,” said the administration. “This package will be the first of several. It will be designed to go after unobligated balances, things that have not been spent and programs from prior years.”
The package does not tackle the runaway spending of the recent $1.3 trillion omnibus bill, but the White House Office of Management and Budget says that a future rescissions package will target that legislation as well. In an interview with The Daily Signal, Rep. Dave Brat said that conservative voters could blame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the administration’s reluctance to slash that bill in the current round of cuts.
“Mitch McConnell has again determined that very little is possible as the final outcome for spending reduction in the Senate,” Brat said. “and so the White House tried to do more upfront, [House Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy tried to do more upfront; Mitch McConnell in the Senate said you can’t touch the omnibus package, and so they had to look for things elsewhere, and that’s what they did.”
The programs and funds targeted by Trump in this package leave Republicans with very little excuse not to pass the bill. Half of the total cuts will come out of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which while it gives Democrats an opportunity to cry foul, will not actually affect the function of the program because the spending authorizations have already run out. Other cuts come from a defunct loan program, a “technical assistance” program intended to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, and unspent funds set aside to address the Ebola outbreak.
Though Republicans can make these cuts with the simple majority they have in both houses of Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would do everything possible to block them.
“These Republican rescissions show the hypocrisy of a GOP Congress that insists on tight budgets for children and families while handing enormous, unpaid-for giveaways to corporations and the wealthiest,” she said.
Pelosi and the Democrats have somehow convinced themselves that the key to victory in the midterms is to keep railing against the GOP tax cuts, even as they improve the economy from every possible metric standpoint.
Meanwhile, it’s encouraging to see that the Trump administration is being proactive when it comes to cutting expenditures, even if we find it depressing that Republicans – in control of all three branches of government – need to be nudged in this way to embrace fiscal conservatism.