By Congressman Glenn Grothman
December 17, 2019
Today, Congress voted on two appropriations bills that, as a practical matter, is the budget for the fiscal year ending in September 2020. A week ago, most felt that a budget deal would not be reached this year and that Congress would pass a two-month continuing resolution that held spending at last year’s levels. Five days ago, we were told that a deal was reached on a, roughly, $1.4 trillion discretionary spending package. The actual language was made available at 4:44 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, December 16, when most members of Congress were either boarding flights back to Washington or getting ready to travel in the morning.
We were initially told that this 2,371 page package would be brought to a vote in two parts. The first Tuesday afternoon and the second as late as Thursday morning. When I woke up this morning, another 58 pages were added and we were told that all 2,300 pages would be brought to a vote at 1:30 p.m. the same day.
Even members of leadership that I spoke with at 10 a.m. weren’t certain of key provisions going into the bills. Of course, there were good and bad provisions. President Trump’s involvement meant that border wall spending would increase and that we would have increased access to generic drugs and biosimilars, particularly insulin.
Going through the budget, I saw line after line of increased spending to both old and new programs. This comes at a time where we are just shy of $24 trillion in debt. It’s apparent that this budget was meant to be passed by the type of politician that comes to Washington looking to spend more money everywhere they can. Rather than creating a responsible budget, we spent more on virtually every program, including an expensive bailout for mine workers. The total increase in spending was north of 4 percent at a time where inflation is around 2 percent. This package, however, only addressed discretionary spending, which means that, when including mandatory spending, total spending will increase by much more than 4 percent. This is obviously unsustainable and irresponsible.
I think the American public would embrace a responsible budget. Even individuals and organizations benefitting from government spending would understand a responsible, small, across the board cut. I do not wish to cut vital programs like Medicare and Social Security. This means that discretionary spending bills like the ones we saw today, as well as other forms of mandatory spending, must be addressed.
It was irresponsible for Congress to call a vote on a bill that no one could have possibly read in time to develop an informed opinion. During my time in politics, I’ve never been asked to take a vote on something with so little information. I’m sure that that any town board, city council or school board in my district would have revolted if they were put in such a position with their annual budget.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman is serving his third term representing Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.