Nov 18 2019
Fund the Military, Update Trade Agreements, and Avoid a Shutdown
Although partisan fights are consuming much of Washington’s attention, there is a lot to celebrate. The economy continues what has become the longest expansion in our nation’s history, unemployment is at near-record lows, and wages rise every month, particularly for low-skill workers.
Tax cuts and less burdensome regulations are giving business owners the chance to expand operations and create new jobs. This progress is encouraging. It shows how free-market principles and hard work are making our country stronger.
Fund America’s Defense
I wish I could also provide an encouraging report on this year’s Congress, where important work seems mired in partisan differences. Vital legislation involving spending priorities, national defense, and trade has been cleared by congressional committees but has failed to see the light of day in the full Senate and House.
Chief among our disappointments this year has been the inability to pass appropriation bills. With the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, Congress has been compelled to enact temporary spending bills – known as continuing resolutions (CRs) – to keep agencies open according to last year’s appropriations.
This practice is wasteful for all agencies, but especially for the military. Under the current CR, the Pentagon is being forced to spend money on programs that are outdated and would be abandoned under revised plans. The Department of Defense had specified $4 billion in unnecessary procurements to cut over the next year, but cannot do so under a CR. That means that our military is now having to use taxpayer dollars to buy things it no longer needs. At the same time, new national security initiatives are having to wait.
The path out of this appalling situation is clear. The Senate has already approved a defense authorization on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis. Now the House needs to set aside politics and come to the table in good faith to debate priorities and funding. Sending a bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act to the president for his signature for the 59th consecutive year and then appropriating funding would build positive momentum for other issues facing Congress.
Members could then focus on other government agencies and services, like the Department of Agriculture, Department of Homeland Security, and our national parks, each of which require their own legislation.
Congress should be able to do this by November 21 and avoid another government shutdown. If we can do so without extending the current CR, then the legislative branch will have accomplished vital work and gained traction to tackle proactive policy matters.
One of the most important of these issues is the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The Trump administration has successfully negotiated USMCA, a key update to the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement. This is a landmark agreement that would create $68 billion in economic growth and 176,000 good-paying jobs. Passing USMCA should be an easy win for Democrats, Republicans, and America’s workers.
The private sector has come roaring back to life. It is time for Congress to do the same. The opportunities for the American people are too important to pass up. Partisanship may be good for headlines, but it is not good for America’s military, and it is not good for our country.