Peter Friedmann's View from Washington DC - March 2017

Dead on Arrival - As Usual

Intense scrutiny is being directed to President Trump's first budget submittal to Congress. Leaks and speculation are suggesting that it will upend the status quo, dramatically reducing Federal support for longstanding programs, while dramatically increasing funding for certain high priorities of the new Administration. However, a little perspective is a good antidote for all the hyperventilating. Because this President's budget proposal will meet the same fate as those of his predecessors - dead on arrival.

Under the Constitution, it is Congress, not the President which controls the purse strings of government. Only Congress can raise taxes, and only Congress can appropriate federal funds. The President’s budget request is just that: a request. Congress has a long history of ignoring much of the President’s budget request, and this year will be no different.

To underscore this point, see this quote from Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who is Chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, when he was asked last week about the dollar figures the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been talking about recently: "I'm not paying much attention to OMB. What you've gotta remember is what OMB puts out is just the administration's recommendation. It's up to Congress to do the appropriation. ... It's not the gospel. It's not handed down to us on a golden tablets and OMB needs to understand that.”

The media, glued to all things Trump, is not inclined to make this history clear. After all, to say that Trump's budget request will suffer the same fate as Obama's and Bush's, would undermine the media's narrative that "everything's different now".

In many ways it's not different, as those coming to DC to lobby Congress are learning. They are meeting with Republican and Democratic staff jointly - as usual. Republican and Democratic Senators are joining together in signing letters to the President to protect funding for Coast Guard, to release funding for navigation dredging funds, to fund transit - as usual. Many Republican and Democratic members of Congress are aligned against the ObamaCare Reform proposals, and the Border Adjustment provisions of tax legislation.

Sorry MSNBC, CNN and FOX, and sorry to some of the Republican and Democratic "Leadership", but many Republicans and Democratic members of Congress are working together, jointly advocating positions on which they are aligned. After all, they are ultimately responsible to their constituents, who care more about getting the Federal government to address their needs, than they are in partisan political squabbling.

Meanwhile, most Republicans and Democrats will agree on yet another thing: as has been the case for many years, the President's Budget Request will be... dead on arrival.

Peter Friedmann

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