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Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Senate Has a Budget Deal, But Are Dems Selling Out Dreamers?

Posted by on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 9:15 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Senate leaders have reached a bipartisan deal to keep the government open for the next two years, which would avert a shutdown. Assuming it makes it through the House, of course—and that’s no guarantee. After all, the deal will add hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal deficit, which is already shooting through the roof thanks to tax cuts. And there’s no attached immigration deal, which is a decidedly sore spot for the left.
  • NYT: “The accord between Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, his Democratic counterpart, would raise strict caps on military and domestic spending that were imposed in 2011 as part of a deal with President Barack Obama that was once seen as a key triumph for Republicans in Congress. The deal would raise the spending caps by about $300 billion over two years. The limit on military spending would be increased by $80 billion in the current fiscal year and $85 billion in the next year, which begins Oct. 1. The limit on nondefense spending would increase by $63 billion this year and $68 billion next year.”
  • “But the accord was not without dramatics, and its passage in the House is not a foregone conclusion. As proof of that, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, took the House floor on Wednesday morning in opposition, protesting that the deal did nothing to bring lawmakers closer to protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. She then delivered a record-breaking speech that tied up the House for the entire day and into the night.”
  • “The budget agreement, coming a day after President Trump threatened to shut down the government, would effectively negate Mr. Trump’s demands to broadly reorder government with deep cuts to nondefense programs like environmental protection, foreign aid and health research that were to offset large increases in military spending. Mr. Trump is to release his second budget request on Monday, but the deal—championed by the top congressional leaders from his own party—amounts to an unequivocal rebuke of many of the budgetary demands he has put forth.”

WHAT IT MEANS: There are three interesting things about this deal, should it go through.
  • The first thing is that, if they agree to it, Democrats will be forfeiting the only leverage they have to force a vote to protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—or at least to protect them without a slew of onerous concessions, including a dumb border wall and the gutting of legal immigration. That’s why the left is pissed [Politico]: “Progressives are frustrated that Senate Democrats cut a budget deal while relief for the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers remains in limbo—and with nothing more than a commitment from McConnell to begin an open-ended immigration debate next week. Pelosi sought to align herself with her party’s base on Wednesday, launching into a rare extended floor speech in the morning and declaring that she would oppose a spending agreement without a commitment from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for a floor debate on Dreamers.”
  • “House Republicans are almost certain to need Democratic votes to pass the sweeping agreement, giving Pelosi significant leverage to force some kind of concession from House GOP leaders on stalled immigration talks.”
  • “Lawmakers in the ‘Quad Caucus’—the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus—were also planning to put out a statement Wednesday opposing any budget deal without progress on Dreamers. The four groups make up a significant portion of the 193-member Democratic Caucus and at least some of their votes are likely critical to passing the budget deal in the House.”
  • The second thing is that Republicans, who blasted any and all nondefense spending in the Obama era, have effectively embraced red ink under Trump [WaPo]: “Republican lawmakers in 2011 brought the U.S. government to the brink of default, refused to raise the debt ceiling, demanded huge spending cuts, and insisted on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. On Wednesday, they formally broke free from those fiscal principles and announced a plan that would add $500 billion in new spending over two years and suspend the debt ceiling until 2019. This came several months after Republicans passed a tax law that would add more than $1 trillion to the debt over a decade. With all these changes, the annual gap between spending and revenue in 2019 is projected to eclipse $1.1 trillion, up from $439 billion in 2015. And they are expanding the deficit at an unusual time, when the economy is growing and unemployment is low, a dynamic that often leads to shrinking budget gaps.”
  • That last point leads to the third thing: we’re doing this backward. When the economy is cratering, that’s the time for deficit spending and tax cuts—basically, you want to flood the economy with money to get the ball rolling again. That’s what the stimulus was all about. But Republicans hated all that stuff and caterwauled about the crippling deficits we’d been leaving our grandchildren; the fought it every step of the way, which, quite frankly, hurt the economic recovery and is one reason it took so long to get back on its feet. Now, however, with the economy sturdy, they’re passing unfunded tax cuts and blowing obscene amounts of money on the military (and giving Democrats concessions on domestic spending to do so). Again, this is backward: when the economy’s doing well, that’s the time to get your fiscal house in order, to rein in deficits. But instead of tapping the breaks, we’re putting pedal to metal and running up historic deficits at a time when the economy doesn’t really need a stimulus.

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