President Donald Trump signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill into law, funding the federal government until October 1.
Signing the bill into law in his private New Jersey residence on May 5, Trump approved the spending mere hours before funding for federal government operations was scheduled to lapse.
The bill approved by Trump contained few of the spending reductions and reforms he proposed earlier this year. It included taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, programs Trump had spoken about defunding during the campaign and in his first couple of months in office.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which Trump promised to cut by about 30 percent, will receive a funding increase, allowing the agency to spend more on green-energy initiatives and other such programs.
‘A Missed Opportunity’
Justin Bogie, a senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs with The Heritage Foundation, says lawmakers blew an opportunity to make bold reforms to government.
“This is definitely a missed opportunity,” Bogie said. “Earlier [in 2017], President Trump proposed $18 billion in discretionary cuts that could be implemented this year and help offset the cost of increases to defense spending and border security. Unfortunately, Congress failed to implement any of those proposed cuts. Instead, they added even more spending—for things like flood and severe weather relief, fighting wildfires, etc.—that wasn’t offset.”
Actions vs. Words
Lawmakers have demonstrated their promises about fiscal restraint are nothing more than words, Bogie says.
“Ultimately, it is up to Congress to implement these proposed cuts and get the country back on a sustainable fiscal path,” Bogie said. “Why we aren’t doing that is a very good question. With Republicans now controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, the real question is: If not now, then when will they get serious about making spending reforms? Ultimately, many members have been willing to support reforms rhetorically but have not been willing to put them into action when given the chance.”
Swampy Slush Funds
Jonathan Bydlak, president of Coalition to Reduce Spending, says lawmakers used budgeting gimmicks to hide spending increases in the bill.
“The bill basically keeps spending at the same level as last year but includes nearly $100 billion for the infamous Overseas Contingency Operations account, which functions as an off-budget slush fund,” Bydlak said. “It also adds billions in off-budget disaster and ’emergency funding.’
“Unfortunately, not hiking overall spending very much is the best good news fiscal conservatives can hope for these days, but almost every department has had its budget held steady or increased,” Bydlak said. “So far, the swamp is being maintained, not drained.”
Slim Chance for Reform?
Taxpayers could get a better deal in September, when lawmakers will begin working out the next year’s budget, but Bydlak says he wouldn’t bet on it.
“We’ll have to wait and see whether the united Congress does better in their Fiscal Year 2018 budget and appropriations, but it’s obviously hard to be optimistic,” Bydlak said.