Monday, March 26, 2018

Don't Get Drawn In

Your Curmudgeon, it is true, swore off getting involved in the current political miasma: there was nothing to be gained from trying to make one's voice heard in the welter of so much fake news and disinformation. I advised my readers to remain above the fray -- and that remains good advice.

However, there comes a time when the rule should be suspended, in the interest of keeping my regular readers confirmed in their course. And now, with President Trump's signing of the so-called "Omnibus Bill" -- a bloated monstrosity of legislative diarrhea if ever there was such a thing -- is the time to dive in and point out the facts which the mainstream media are withholding from the public.

The Omnibus Bill, pretty much everyone agrees, is a spending bacchanal -- there are few limits to what the Democrats want to spend money on, and supposedly likewise for the RINOs who are currently controlling the flow of legislation in Congress. Planned Parenthood?  It gets full funding, as always. The long-promised border wall? Only a stretch of fence is supposedly funded, and the President is supposedly barred from spending any of the fence money on his Wall.

Well, your Curmudgeon is here to tell you that what you read and see in the mainstream media on these points is all fake: it could not be farther from the Constitutional reality that our founders established in 1789.

You see, under the Constitution and Article I, it is Congress' responsibility to pass a budget -- which blueprint, if Congress wants its budget to become a Law of the United States, binding on the President and other branches, has to be in the form of a Bill (see U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 7).

As you may (or may not) have read in the media, the so-called "Omnibus Bill" was not a bill at all, but was technically a "Continuing Resolution." That is to say, although it likewise requires a presidential signature before it becomes effective (see Sec. 7 again), it does not bind the Executive branch the way that a Law does.

Let that sink in a bit. It means that although Congress, for example, voted funds to be spent on Planned Parenthood, there is no legal consequence for President Trump if he instructs his Secretary to sequester those funds. Congress may complain all it wants, but until it passes an actual budget bill, it has no means of forcing the President's hand.

And if Congress could have passed a budget bill, you may be certain it would have. It took the easy way out, drafting a 2,200-page Continuing Resolution in secret that kept the rank-and-file members themselves from knowing what was in it until they passed it. Passing a budget would have required the various committees with jurisdiction to break out the numbers, hold public hearings, and engage in compromises and trade-offs to get each segment of the budget out of committee and to the floor for a final vote. (That's the way Congress is supposed to function -- remember your basic civics?)

Unlike a real budget, which remains in effect throughout an entire fiscal year, the Continuing Resolution is good for just six months, until the current fiscal year ends on September 30. From now until then, therefore, it will be Trump, not Congress, who controls the purse strings.

I have heard speculation that President Trump signed the Resolution in full knowledge of this fact (given that he relies on his capable and experienced budget director, Mike Mulvaney). At the same time, he sent a signal to Congress by warning that he would "never, ever" sign such a resolution again. The speculation is that Trump may be setting up Congress for a big showdown this October, just in advance of the November elections. His message to the voters would be, in effect, "Don't re-elect any of these guys who think they can run the government by omnibus appropriations -- they're just flim-flamming you."

At any rate, your Curmudgeon felt that this information was important enough to bring it to your attention, since you will never read about it in the national media. Watch and see what happens over the coming months -- the proof will be in how Trump authorizes (or withholds authorization for) his Cabinet secretaries to spend the money that Congress voted.


  1. I have read this analysis elsewhere also. That wily Trump may very well do an end-around Congress and spend money where he thinks it's most needed.

    And the following headlines at Politico made me laugh out loud: "Fears grow that Trump could ignore Congress on spending; Lawmakers and activists see warning signs that Trump officials could cut budgets by leaving federal money unspent." The horror!

    1. If my memory serves (and it often doesn't) Congress sued Nixon to make him spend the money they had authorized for some favored program.

  2. Continuing resolutions are a bit like General Convention resolutions. Bits of paper that can be waved about in front of the press.

  3. Prior to signing the Omnibus Bill, President Trump formally sent a declaration of a State of Emergency on the basis of humanitarian crisis to congress. This will enable him to moderate/control/direct/curb spending. Our Scottish President hates waste, corruption, needless debt, etc. He won't allow business as usual in the District of Corruption.

    He also takes his Contract with the American Voter seriously:

    Trump is more concerned with squeezing and stretching taxpayer dollars than even we are.

    I am so relieved to have a President who loves the country and the people - after 8 years of leftist lawlessness, obscene spending and abuse of power.

    I'm so glad you are still writing and holding down the fort, Mr. Curmudgeon Haley! I still love and post links to your Debasement of the Currency of Truth and have links to your series on dating Christmas.

    God's peace and all blessings to you!

  4. PS - Go to this twitter feed to see details of this spending stop-gap bill - see the 'Did you know...' posts. Sorry it's not a series....

  5. Growing Fears and Continuing Resolutions are the Children of Mr. and Mrs. Whatiff?

    There really is too much gravity, you know. And those most affected are the children and women and the poor.

    Pray for the whole state of Christ's Church...
    El Gringo Viejo

    1. When my political rants degenerate into mumbling of unladylike language, I read El Gringo V. for fresh material.

  6. We also commend, agree, and endorse the words of the previous commentators.

  7. Congress has to authorize raising the debt limit, I think. Does this fall under the filibuster rule ? Does the House and Senate publish their stupid "rules" somewhere (accessible to the public)?

  8. Maxine, I personally think that the Senate need to dump the "cloture vote" and return to the real filibuster. If something is important enough to the minority, they can shut down all Senate work and stand up talking until they drop. This would make it once again an unusual proceeding, and not the routine it has become. It is ridiculous that 60 votes are needed to pass almost anything in the Senate.

    1. I have been a dedicated C-Span watcher for over 40 years, and have yet to find out where the "cloture vote" rule came from!

    2. Maxine, without careful research, this is what I remember: In something like 1974, the Senate revised its rules about unlimited debate to allow a vote of 2/3 of its members to require that a measure come to the floor for debate and vote. At some later point, that was change to 60 votes. Effectively, this "cloture" rule means that a minority can prevent a measure from ever coming to a vote, while Senate business on other measures moves on as usual. The older practice, the filibuster, simply provided for unlimited debate on an issue. While that debate was on, all other Senate business ground to a halt. But both the unlimited debate rule and the cloture rule are internal Senate rules, having nothing to do with the Constitution.