On Friday, US President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill even though he had earlier threatened to veto the legislation due to the lack of border wall funding and a permanent fix for DACA.
While Trump reluctantly decided to sign the trillion dollar legislation, pointing out that the armed services needed more money, which appears to encompasses a large part of the spending bill, US Congresswoman Karen Handel (R-GA) revealed her thoughts on the passage of the massive spending bill.
Yesterday, the US House passed the FY18 Omnibus Budget bill which President Trump has now signed, that sets spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. This bill authorizes specific spending based on the budget agreement reached in late January. I’d like to share with you some highlights of the bill, why I voted for it, some of my reservations, and how we move forward from here.
A top priority – in the bill and for me — is to fully fund our military.
The previous budget sequester has held the line on overall spending for the past few years. However, our military has suffered significantly as a consequence. We cannot in good conscience ask our men and women to go into battle unprepared and without the equipment they need. This bill also provides for the largest military pay raise in 8 years.
Our closest ally, Israel, will also be better protected under this budget. We have committed $3.1 Billion for the US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding and more than $700 Million for Israeli Missile Defense and anti-tunneling technology.
Security of our homeland is also significantly addressed. We’ve added $5.4 Billion to the Department of Homeland Security to provide additional “boots on the ground,” increased detention space, and better surveillance technology. Additionally, this budget includes the $1.6B that the President sought for the first 100 miles of border wall.
Our Veterans are also prioritized under this budget. We have authorized $81.5 Billion to continue modernization efforts at the Veterans Administration and to eliminate backlogs and increase oversight and accountability.
On the non-defense /military side of spending, other priorities are also funded.
The 6th Congressional District is the epicenter of Georgia’s opioid epidemic. Solving this requires bipartisan cooperation — and resources. The House has committed to provide the largest investment yet to address prevention, treatment, and enforcement efforts. We are appropriating $4 Billion to put this commitment into action. Additionally, this budget provides for $2.3 Billion for school safety, mental health, and training programs. We’ve also made the largest appropriation to date for expanding Savannah Harbor, a vital resource to our state and country’s economy.
It is also important to discuss what is not included in this budget.
There is no special funding for sanctuary cities. Further, the Department of Justice currently has every legal authority to pursue action against any city that is defying our nation’s immigrations law and take away existing federal funding.
There is no “earmark” to fund the New York/New Jersey tunnel. Authorities remain eligible to apply for federal transportation grants, just like any other state jurisdiction.
Anyone who has followed my career knows that I am pretty much a hardliner when it comes to cutting spending. So, voting for a budget that increased spending without offsetting cuts was a very difficult decision.
The great necessity to adequately fund our military, take care of our veterans and allocate dollars to other Republican priorities (such as combatting the opioid crisis, school safety, and homeland/border security) meant that a “yes” vote was required. Voting down this budget would not have gotten us any closer to fixing the budget process. What it would have done is shut down the government yet again, leave our military men and women in jeopardy, and in all likelihood resulted in an even worse budget deal.
Have we addressed our core spending priorities? Yes we have. Is the budget process broken and our government spending too much? Yes it is.
How do we reconcile the increased spending on our priorities with the very real fact – and real financial threat — that our government still spends too much? It’s a three-fold strategy.
A newly-formed Select Committee on Budget Reforms and Debt Reduction is already at work. This Select Committee is a joint committee between the House and Senate tasked with identifying and presenting specific budget reform initiatives. Additionally, the House will vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment in the coming months
The status quo process that led to this bill outlines how broken our system is. The House did its work, producing a budget and passing 12 separate appropriations bills. The House bills were designed to have a balanced budget over ten years – quicker if the economy continues to grow.
The Senate failed to act on these bills and instead pushed us into the now all too familiar scenario of last minute continuing resolutions and omnibus spending bills. The Senate’s refusal to participate in the appropriations process as designed creates the ‘manage by crisis’ approach that yields last-minute deals and higher spending levels. We must return to a system that is both purposeful and functional.
In the meantime, we need to look for ways to cut wasteful spending – whether it’s a big number or a small number. Just this week, I introduced the SNAP Act. This bill will eliminate “bonus” payments to states for doing their job right and save $480 Million over the next 10 years. We don’t need to reward those for doing what they’re supposed to. In the private sector, we penalize those who don’t. Doing the job right the first time (and on budget) must become the expectation of those receiving your tax dollars.
And finally, we’re going to grow the economy – which will boost our nation’s fiscal position. The tax cuts are working. More people have jobs. Companies are hiring, raising wages, and paying bonuses. Overseas profits are coming back to the U.S. and new investments are being made. Workers are keeping more of their paychecks. The more people that work, the lower the general burdens of government.
To be sure, much work is ahead. What I have learned in my first months in Congress is that voting “no,” is pretty easy. Getting to “yes” is much harder.
Who would you vote for if the elections were held today?
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