For more than two decades our federal government has been operating on bundled continuing resolutions without a single budget passed under regular order. This scheme of CRs was devised originally as a measure that would allow the government to stay funded and open under a variety of emergency scenarios. However, unscrupulous or greedy politicians on both sides of the aisle quickly seized upon it as a way of life that would make their jobs easier while simultaneously allowing them to do favors for donors without being blamed for any votes on issues not favored by their voters.
It worked as follows: Congressman A supports issue 1, say gun control, but not issue B, say farm subsidies. Congressman B is the opposite and supports issue 2 but not 1. When all issues are bundled, both vote for the bundled CR even if they may oppose many of the issues contained. In addition, many uncontroversial issues would be contained in the bundle. These would include, for example, airport security or national park funding or military pay — things that might greatly upset the public if stopped.
Anyone not voting for the bundle could be accused of “shutting down the government” and thereby air transportation, etc., encouraging even more to vote for the CR.
The result of this scheme has been more and more and more federal government spending and borrowing to feed the insatiable appetites of local, state, national and international interests wishing to feed at the United States taxpayer public trough. The bottom-line result of this after four administrations, two Republican and two Democrat, is an accumulation of an additional $30 trillion in our national debt.
This year under a new proposed CR, $2 trillion more would be added. The mere interest on this vast amount is scheduled to exceed $1 trillion, which is larger than the entire federal budget about 30 years ago. By 2050 interest payments would be more than half the federal budget and not long after would lead to economic collapse in our country. And that is not to mention the effects of overspending on our current economy, like being the primary driver of inflation.
For many years, a few Republicans and even an occasional Democrat have been sounding the debt alarm bell and decrying wasteful, often stupid spending on, for example, a now bankrupt solar panel producer ($500 million) or a now bankrupt electric bus company ($2 billion) or foreign aid to countries that hate us or forever wars or continued COVID spending when COVID is over or spending to support illegals coming to our country as well as to support them when here.
When Republicans gained the majority in the House of Representatives, a few vowed to end this business-as-usual CR spend fest. Because of the very thin majority the votes of these few “holdouts” were needed to effect the election of the new speaker. After 15 rounds of voting, they extracted a list of promises from the speaker nominee, Kevin McCarthy, which included: no more CRs and an actual budget with 12 separately argued and passed spending bills without automatic increases; no behind-closed-doors deals; amongst others. In the summer, McCarthy entered a closed-door deal to increase the debt ceiling. In September he agreed to a short-term CR. The excuse he cited for the CR was that there was not enough time before the Sept. 30 deadline. None of this sat well with the “holdouts,” especially since McCarthy had recessed the House for all of August when the deadline was looming.
So, eight gutsy Republicans, including Matt Gaetz, called for McCarthy to vacate the speaker’s chair. For this they were roundly criticized by all sides, called traitors, and threatened with all kinds of retribution including death. But they stood their ground while several McCarthy-like replacements were trotted out as alternatives and rejected. From afar, with some idea of the enormous pressure that these representatives were under, I was reminded of John Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage” and thinking this story would have made a great chapter.
After three weeks of turmoil, the Republicans in Congress settled on a little-known congressman from Louisiana, Mike Johnson. Johnson will, of course, be labeled variously as a racist, a homophobe, a Donald Trump supporter/apologist, election denier, climate denier, threat to democracy, by the Democrats and by much of the news media. That is their normal behavior and par for the course. In truth, Johnson appears to be a religious, truthful, constitutional conservative who promises to stop the CR spending train and get control of the budget before it is too late. Importantly, he has no obligation to lobbyists and large donors so is free to vote his conscience. He is much more likely to serve as an instrument who helps to preserve our constitutional republic than a threat to the fictitious but oft-cited democracy that is not our form of government. This will not make many representatives, senators, and lobbyists happy, but we should pray that he succeeds.