Last Thursday night, members of Congress continued to grapple with a looming government shutdown, the second in less than a month.
Leading to the shutdown, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California rode her high horse in high heels for more than eight hours at the podium on Wednesday. Her rambling rant on the plight of so-called “Dreamers” droned on and on. To me, it seemed to be part junior varsity filibuster and part kabuki theater. Pelosi’s purpose at the podium was to delay the House budget vote until House Speaker Paul Ryan guaranteed Democrats a chance to debate and discuss extending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, aka DACA, beyond its current expiration date next month.
On Thursday, with the clock ticking toward a midnight government shutdown, the Senate was poised to pass a budget bill that would keep the government open and fund military and domestic spending. Then came GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who stopped the Senate in its tracks. In a quixotic quest to hold up the Senate vote, Paul rose to protest budget deficits that would soar under the Senate plan.
“I want people to feel uncomfortable,” said Paul late Thursday night. “I want them to have to answer people at home who said, ‘How come you were against President Obama’s deficits and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?’” With midnight rapidly approaching, Paul pushed his point by reminding fellow Republicans they had promised to end fiscal recklessness, but were now about to renege on that promise. “I think the country’s worth a debate until 3 in the morning, frankly,” he said.
Despite the drama by Pelosi in the House and Paul in the Senate, the Senate finally passed the budget bill, 71 to 28, just before 2 a.m. Friday. The House voted around 5:30 a.m. 240 to 186 for the bill. It was a rare act of bipartisanship in a bitterly partisan political climate in Congress.
President Trump quickly signed into law the budget deal that will boost spending by hundreds of billions of dollars and allowed the government to reopen after a brief shutdown. He then tweeted, “Just signed Bill. Our Military will now be stronger than ever before. We love and need our Military and gave them everything -- and more. First time this has happened in a long time. Also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!”
With the budget bill now enacted into law, about $300 billion in additional funds will be available for military and non-military programs, plus nearly $90 billion in disaster relief for areas hit hard by hurricanes and wildfires last year.
My question now for Congress and President Trump is “Whatever happened to your promises of limited federal government and fiscal responsibility?
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.