As a newcomer to Congress, I cannot help but recall my frustration as a citizen, at how things worked, or perhaps didn’t work in Washington. Politicians rarely demonstrated the willingness to say ‘no’ to the next good idea, whether or not it was something that should or had previously been within the enumerated role of the federal legislature. This thinking brought us the federal dominance in the heretofore state and local arena of education, meanwhile there was a correlating drop in the achievement of American students versus the global competition. It gave us the Obama years, where the President, who famously referred to seven trillion in debt as “unpatriotic,” oversaw a near tripling of that debt in just eight years and officially accrued more debt in a span of two terms than our nation had seen in over two-hundred years combined. It got us a healthcare plan that we had to pass to see what was in it, which exists while laws on marijuana and immigration are selectively enforced when they are enforced at all.
But that was all to have changed. “We were going to drain the swamp!”
Fast forward to today. There is every reason to believe that the Senate will couple a clean increase in our nation’s authority to grow its twenty trillion dollars in debt with relief money for the devastation and victims of Hurricane Harvey. (As an aside, twenty trillion is twenty thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand dollars). This is not draining the swamp. This is perpetuating it. This is a plan to grow the very wetlands that this White House pledged to dry up.
House leadership has proposed relief funding for Harvey without poisonously packaging in an unproportionate increase and suspension of the debt ceiling, while the Senate has not. This is just another reason that the Founders gave us separate branches of government and a bicameral legislature; it is a great example of the grade school lesson on checks and balances.
So, the political thought goes that no member would dare oppose relief for victims of what is in terms of dollars, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. To do so, would be political suicide. I don’t oppose the relief, I support it, but to allow the Senate and White House to advance the narrative that the only way that can be accomplished is by forfeiting our responsibility to be good stewards of tax dollars and bend down an unsustainable spending curve that is an existential threat to life in America as we know it is not only false, it is downright swamp-like. When I find a shrimp in my beef stew, I know the chef is doing something wrong. When I’m forced to vote for debt ceiling suspension packaged in with logical relief funding, I know Senate leadership is doing something wrong.
Thankfully, the option the House is considering this morning grants members the opportunity to support the very necessary funding for relief, but the option the Senate is likely to send back threatens to return as an omnibus package. Not a single subject, but a package of good and bad things, rammed through, with an unspoken dare that someone might speak out.
Well, challenge accepted. I want Harvey relief. I want it as soon as possible, but I won’t sit by idly and wish that things were done the way the Founders intended. I will speak out. Funding relief for Harvey is necessary, but raising the debt ceiling disproportionately by twenty trillion dollars is not. This is ridiculous. This is swamp-like. This needs to end, and if saying so has a political cost, so be it.
Simply put, if this legislative pattern and tactic continues of packaging necessary funding with irresponsible spending increases, we as a nation will find ourselves omni-busted.
Garrett is the Republican U.S. representative representing Rappahannock County and Virginia’s 5th congressional district.