Our View: No Way to Govern
OpinionOur View

Our View: No Way to Govern

The federal government's $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill blended too much nonsense with needed measures.

President Donald Trump did something rare Friday, March 23: He sent a tweet whose underlying message ought to have support across the political spectrum.

After threatening to veto but then signing a $1.3 trillion stopgap spending bill to prevent another government shutdown, the president tweeted that he “will NEVER sign another bill like this again.”

Putting aside whether his push for a line-item veto would solve the problem — we’ll never know because we’re no more likely to get a constitutional amendment for a line-item veto than one for a balanced budget — Trump is right that continuing resolutions, omnibus spending bills and stopgap measures are no way to run a government.

The new spending measure is a bloated mess that mixes programs and policies that couldn’t stand on their own with appropriations necessary to keep the federal government running. The legislation was rushed through despite running more than 2,000 pages, so while we’re not sure about everything that’s in the bill, we’re certain that no one in Congress who voted for it knew it all either.

We do know members of Congress slipped in some embarrassingly wrongheaded provisions. To take a timely example as the Major League Baseball season begins, the bill includes the cynically named Saving America’s Pastime Act, under which the 6,500 or so minor-league baseball players in this country are declared exempt from labor laws mandating a minimum wage and overtime pay.

Unlike their big-league brethren, minor-leaguers (most of whom will never play in the majors) make a pittance, as little as $3,000 in salary over five months. Those salaries are paid by the major-league teams that own their rights, so capping their pay isn’t doing anything to make minor-league teams more profitable than they already are. It just saves owners such as the BravesLiberty Media a few dollars, at the expense of players such as Jewish Atlantans Brandon Gold and Matthew Gorst, who are entertaining us while pursuing their dreams.

Cartoon by RJ Matson, CQ Roll Call

The Saving America’s Pastime Act had deservedly stalled as a stand-alone measure, but under the cover of a $1.3 trillion monstrosity, it became the law of the land.

The spending measure does include many good things, including the Taylor Force Act, which limits U.S. government aid to the Palestinians as long as the Palestinian Authority pays stipends to terrorists and their families; an increase from $25 million to $60 million for annual Department of Homeland Security grants that have helped Jewish institutions upgrade facility security since 2005; $175 million over 10 years for school security efforts; a doubling of funding for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program to $5 million; and a $100 million boost to $700 million for U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs.

But none of those things should be enacted without proper debate in Congress. We believe those programs are good ideas, but anyone who disagrees or, more likely, who thinks federal funds could be better spent elsewhere or not spent at all should get a chance to make that case.

Unfortunately, Congress has long failed to follow the proper process for its primary responsibility, appropriating money. Instead of enacting a dozen well-vetted appropriations bills, Congress just rolls everything together and bounces from one financial crisis to another. It then incorporates something for everyone to ensure passage, undermining proper process and contributing to our ballooning national debt.

It’s a lot to ask, apparently, but it’s time for our elected officials to grow up and treat the federal budget like it’s real money.

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