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Hope grows that Trump could ignore Congress on spending

That’s the heading. The sub-heading gives us a bit more detail:

Lawmakers and activists see encouraging signs that Trump officials could cut budgets by leaving federal money unspent.

Well, I may have changed things a bit there. See which version you prefer by comparing what I put with the original version.

I can’t fault paragraph one of the actual story:

Lawmakers and activists are preparing for the possibility that President Donald Trump’s administration, in its zeal to slash the federal budget, will take the rare step of deliberately not spending all the money Congress gives it — a move sure to trigger legal and political battles.

I had already been thinking to myself that Trump might do this. I didn’t think he would start making such noises quite so soon after signing the bill.

Next: actually not spending the money. But, never make that old “we demand action not words” mistake. Demand words, and then actions in accordance with those words, which is a hell of a lot more difficult if there have been no words to start with. If words didn’t count for anything, why the hell would we here bother with them, day after day?

14 comments to Hope grows that Trump could ignore Congress on spending

  • Mr Ed

    leaving federal money unspent

    The most dreadful arrangement of four words in the American political lexicon. If the President, holding the Executive power of the United States in his hands, does not spend money, what is he for?

    Does Article 1, Section 2 not provide that the power to spend money is the President’s alone?

    The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

    The Congress may appropriate money, and provide that it may be spent on X, but if the Congress mandates that $Y be spent, must every dollar be spent?

    When did we last have a President who even mused about not spending money?

  • Words matter, but the enemy sometimes listens.

  • Fraser Orr

    That is one of the funniest articles I have ever read. I kept checking the title bar to see if it was from the Onion.

    The part that convinced me that it was all a piss take was when we heard from the Norwegian Refugee Council USA, who was worried that he won’t be able to get his trotters in the trough. Did any of us know that the USA had a Norwegian Refugee problem? I certainly didn’t.

    What a great way to go to the polls. “Congress is forcing me to run up the deficit by spending money on useless crap like the Norwegian Refugee Crisis. I am doing all I can to stop the nonsense, but they are actually using the courts to force we to piss away your money on studies of Monkeys on Treadmills. Vote for my party so that we can finally put a stop to all this nonsense”.

    Once again, Trump is a surprisingly brilliant political strategist. This sort of story, and a few lawsuits trying to force him to spend money, positions him to be the guy who is trying to stop all the “Breeding Habits of The Lesser Spotted Owl” projects, and forcing the democrats on the defense about them. Plus this absolutely emasculates the claim of “tax cuts? don’t you care about the deficit?”

    I will note that this story is pretty old, and it is the first I have heard of it.

  • Lee Moore

    I had already been thinking to myself that Trump might do this. I didn’t think he would start making such noises quite so soon after signing the bill

    I suspect Trump recognises that his cave on the Budget, wherein Chuck Schumer got everything he could have dreamed of, and Trump got nothing, looks pretty bad for Trump the master strategist. So I suspect Trump feels in need of some “But here was Trump’s brilliant hole card all along !” stories.

    Seriously it can’t be helpful to go into “who’s got bigger cojones ?” contests with North Korea, Iran and China when you’ve just been given a public wedgie by Chuck Schumer.

  • Paul Marks

    First of all there is 60 vote in the Senate rule in the Constitution of the United States – so when Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says “I had to agree to this because I do not have 60 votes” HE IS LYING.

    President Donald Trump just gave in to the LIES of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – he did not have to. President Trump could have said “the Senate is the master of its own procedure – now go and pass a proper budget as the Constitution lays down”, but for more than a year now President Trump has NOT said that.

    As for a secret plan to cut government spending. Donald Trump is not Ted Cruz – I do not believe that President Trump is very interested in cutting government spending.

  • For any who have not already noted it, this article, which has support from a Trump tweet, suggests that Trump will spend the money on things he wishes done (that Democrats wish left undone).

    Paul Marks (March 26, 2018 at 10:13 pm) is doubtless right that Trump is a good deal less focussed on cutting government spending than Ted Cruz would have been, but he is very interested in winning, and in looking like he is winning, so I suspect the article is also right. (h/t instapundit)

  • bobby b

    “Trump will spend the money on things he wishes done (that Democrats wish left undone).”

    Much as I agree with Trump’s aims and goals, this is a somewhat dismaying chapter.

    The moment a dollar is spent by the military towards the wall, the lawsuits will begin. Undoubtedly, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will end up hearing the combined lawsuit appeal after one side wins in the lower court. That court will rule against Trump – it will somehow find that he is exceeding his power and circumventing the express will of Congress – and then the case will go to the US Supreme Court.

    I dread both possible results out of that court.

    If they rule against Trump, every act Trump does after that will be taken to court, and the world of progressive judges will see that the USSC has NOT ordered them to defer to the executive branch on political questions and so they will feel free to shoot Trump down on everything. We’ll all be controlled by the same idiot Hawaiian judges who stopped Trump’s immigration order.

    If the USSC rules in Trump’s favor, this will be a grant of empowerment to the executive branch unseen in our history. If the executive can take Congress’s legislated spending bills and then, in a sort of mix-n-match, choose where to spend the money (or not spend the money), then the only function remaining to Congress would be to set a top limit on what the executive branch could spend. It would have no enforceable role in the ways our tax money is spent. Sounds great – until we elect the next progressive president. The new president will then be empowered to tear down the wall Trump just built, and open our borders to all.

    (We’re already halfway there, ever since the USSC ruled that Obama could choose not to enforce our immigration laws in his lawsuit against Arizona. But only halfway.)

    I’d actually prefer the first alternative – Trump losing – over the second. I like gridlock in government. The second choice – Trump winning – would guarantee that government would be fast and effective and expensive. These are three qualities I hate in government. I’m really beginning to appreciate the merits of the 18th-century Polish system where any noble merely had to cry out “sisto activitatem!” and the entire session was cancelled and annulled. Yay, gridlock!

  • Phil B

    An interesting article that explores and describes how he may behave and NOT spend the cash or at least divert some of the spending to “the wall”.


    Interesting, no?

  • Mr Black

    Trump knows what he is doing. He didn’t sign this budget because he is stupid, he was tricked, he is careless with finances or any of the other bullshit reasons that people like to fabricate on a whim. He signed it because it aided his objectives and the way from A to B is not necessarily a straight line. Let the man work and then judge the results. He’s got a pretty good record so far.

  • Ferox

    Is there any historical precedent at all for a U.S. President to fail to spend every single penny that was budgeted by Congress?

    Re: the wall, I don’t understand why Trump doesn’t just crowdsource it. 50 million supporters, $100 each, bada bing, bada boom, there’s your wall. He could probably get 100,000 volunteers to come down and help actually build it too. That would be some real leadership, the roll-up-your-sleeves kind.

  • If I remember correctly Nixon tried something like this. He was slapped down pretty hard.

    However, times change and Trump might be able to get away with a few things. For instance his freeze of new government employees (in some places) might help reduce spending.

    Also he might insist that spending in places he does not like go through every single regulatory process his people can think of. That would slow things down and at the end of the fiscal year his people could ‘return’ the unspent money.

    Best of all he could divert some of the extra money to the various departmental Inspector Generals to ‘root out corruption’. This might actually find some real crimes, but above all it would scare the hell out of the bureaucracy, which in and of itself would be a good thing.

    One can always dream.

  • Michael Brazier

    bobby b: It’s true that, under the Constitution, if Congress directs that a certain sum of money shall be spent for a specific end, the President must spend it to that end. The catch here is that an omnibus spending bill doesn’t give such directions, so Trump has a lot of leeway in how he uses the money Congress is giving him. IOW the constitutional issue isn’t what Trump may do, but Congress not doing its job properly – Congress apparently prefers to do its budgeting in a state of panic.

    It may be that the only way to get Congress to consider its appropriations rationally is for Trump to abuse the discretion it’s given him with its current practices.

  • Alisa

    Pil B.: indeed, thanks for that.

  • bobby b

    Michael Brazier
    March 27, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    “The catch here is that an omnibus spending bill doesn’t give such directions, so Trump has a lot of leeway in how he uses the money Congress is giving him.”

    Completely true. No disagreement.

    But the Constitution also makes it fairly clear that Trump had the legal power to impose a delay on travel into the US from certain countries, and the lower courts and the CoApps ignored this and ruled that his suspect motivations somehow divested him of this power. We’ve still not seen a contrary ruling from the USSC, so that’s how matters stand today.

    If the courts are willing to dispense with the rule of law in order to foster their own political leanings (as they appear to be so far), I give Trump a slim chance only that he could spend money from the military on the wall. Having a strong legal argument is only useful when the adjudicator respects the rule of law.

    (But I do agree that this might be a useful chapter in convincing Congress to actually write a budget instead of their current practice of “last year’s money plus X%”.)