On Monday, January 21, 1985, during his second inaugural address, my father – President Ronald Reagan – gave the nation some very sound advice when he said, “We must act now to protect future generations from government’s desire to spend its citizens’ money and tax them into servitude when the bills come due. Let us make it unconstitutional for the Federal Government to spend more than the Federal Government takes in.”
Tragically we did not take that advice, and the United States government continues on a wild spending spree the likes of which has never before been seen in the nation.
What appalls me is the failure of George W. Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress – both proudly bearing the mantle of conservatism – to curb this obsession with squandering not only the money of today’s taxpayers, but that of future generations who will be saddled with the monstrous debts they have imposed.
This orgy of spending has to be stopped, and stopped now. If the Republican Party is to survive, it must reassert its traditional role as the guardian of the public treasury and the sworn foe of unrestrained government spending.
While the president and his allies in the GOP leadership on the Hill have been turning a deaf ear to the demands of rank and file Republicans – in and out of Congress – a growing coalition of Republican Senators and House members is charting a path towards restoring fiscal responsibility. And they are beginning to have an effect.
As Bob Novak has reported, on Monday night a group of GOP Senators led by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., killed a measure that was drafted in secret under bipartisan auspices and in which its sponsors sought to sneak through a bill sending $9 billion into state Medicaid programs under the pretext of hurricane relief.
Now $9 billion is peanuts at a time when figures like $300 billion are tossed around for hurricane relief as if they were confetti, but it’s start, and a signal that a growing number of GOP legislators are saying they’ve had enough and are not going to take it anymore.
The other night Sen. George Allen, R-Va., told me that he and Congressman James Talent, R-Mo., are proposing a constitutional amendment giving the president the power of a line-item veto. This is an idea whose time has come – my father saw that power as one way to restrain the spending impulses of pork-obsessed members of Congress.
The whole deficit business goes back to 1974 with the Budget Impoundment Act of 1974, which took away the authority of the president to impound funds appropriated by Congress that he believes, if spent, would result in a budget deficit.
Since that time the president has been prevented from doing anything to curb wasteful pork-laden spending measures except vetoing complete bills, which in most cases proves to be impractical.
In most cases, therefore, no matter how frugal a president might be, he’s almost powerless when it comes to putting the reins on congressional spending. So clearly something needs to be done.
Congressman Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, have been leading a move to find ways to offset the $200 or $300 billion now planned for hurricane relief. They and their GOP allies on the Hill are recommending holding back certain programs – such as the prescription drug plan – for a year, and diverting the tons of pork in the recently-enacted, pork-heavy federal highway bill to cover the cost of the relief programs.
Tragically, for daring to advance this sensible alternative to loading up the federal budget deficit, Pence was taken to the woodshed by the House GOP leadership. But the growing sentiment among rank-and-file members of Congress will not be quashed, and the leadership – like it or not – will have to fall in line.
If they don’t, you can bet that the Republican Party is going to lose control of Congress next year, and with Democrats in power government spending will go through the roof.
©2005 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Cari Dawson Bartley email Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561