A budget Barack Obama would have loved
Just how bad is the omnibus budget bill the president signed into law last week? Putting aside the travesty that no one (save for perhaps Sen. Rand Paul) read it, the omnibus exceeds the budget requests Barack Obama made in 2016:
In the $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Trump reluctantly signed on Friday, lawmakers did more than reject the steep cuts in dollars and programs that Trump proposed for domestic agencies a year ago. Across much of the government, Republican leaders agreed to spending levels that matched or even exceeded what Obama asked Congress to appropriate in his final budget request in 2016—and many of which lawmakers ignored while he was in office.
The Department of Health and Human Services received $78 billion, nearly identical to the $77.9 billion Obama sought and almost 20 percent more than what the Trump budget called for. Ditto for the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, which got $1.5 billion more than Obama’s final request and nearly $12 billion more than the reduced level Trump sought. Obama-era priorities like Head Start and Pell Grants drew increases, too.
That's pretty bad. But it gets worse:
Congress eliminated none of the 18 independent agencies Trump wanted to scrap, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. And several of the programs he wanted to zero out won huge increases instead. Take the TIGER grants, an infrastructure program created by Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package. Congress had allocated $500 million to it each of the last several years, despite annual Obama requests to boost it to $1.25 billion. Trump’s budget called for axing it entirely, but lawmakers went even higher than Obama, giving $1.5 billion to TIGER. Or the Community Development Block Grant, a federal housing program that had been receiving $3 billion from Congress annually. Obama actually proposed cutting its funding by $200 million in 2016, while Trump called for chopping it altogether. In the end, it received $3.3 billion—a 10 percent boost.
All of which helps explain the Democrats' glee at the bill's passage:
The spending spikes all contributed to this week’s unexpected display of Democrats celebrating legislation enacted under complete GOP control of Washington. And the victories for a president who has been out of office for a year were not lost on conservatives. “This could have been written by President Obama and liberal Democrats,” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said Thursday night on Fox News, hours before he consented to a vote on a 2,200-page bill most of his colleagues hadn’t had time to read. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska accused his party of hypocrisy. “Every Republican would vote against this disgusting pork bill if a Democrat were president,” he said in a statement.
The president said he would not sign another such omnibus spending bill again. He shouldn't. Not only is it very bad policy, allowing Congress to basically run wild with the federal credit card, it's also terrible politics.
While there's no clear indication -- yet -- the GOP base will hold the spending bill against them in the November midterm elections, the bill has a corrosive effect on the base's faith in Republican promises of fiscal restraint. As this entire, ugly episode made clear, those promises meant nothing.