Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) spoke to Breitbart News Daily Tuesday, offering a look ahead at the lame-duck budget battle, which could include another government shutdown drama.
Brat summarized the budget situation in Congress, inviting listeners to check out his book American Underdog for a “longer primer”:
I came in two years ago, and we had a cromnibus, then we had an omnibus last year, where conservatives had the budget caps increased, higher spending, lost all the conservative riders we worked on the whole year. And so, since the day I’ve been in here, we’ve had omnibus, omnibus – and then this year, our leadership’s saying, “Boy, we don’t want an omnibus,” but then today, you open the newspaper, and Obama and Mitch McConnell and the Senate are saying, “We don’t want a shutdown,” and “Boy, we’ve got to do a budget by December 9, in the middle of Obama’s lame duck.”
And then last week, in our member meeting, we brought up national defense, needs to be plussed-up. And I agree with that, but we should have solved that earlier in the year, when we had regular order.
And so me and the House Freedom Caucus guys, that’s the one thing we insisted on, when Paul Ryan rose to power. And he promised regular order, which means the budget stays in committee, and then goes on the Floor for a vote, where the American people can discipline us so we don’t get to make stuff up at the last minute.
And voila! – regular order is gone again. We’re gonna have an omnibus, which means there’s twelve appropriations bills – and I know this is a little in the weeds. Basically, we passed two out of 72 appropriations bills in the last six years. Why our side thinks Harry Reid is gonna pass a military appropriations bill this month, when we haven’t passed any in the last six years, it strains credulity.
“That’s where we’re at. It’s gonna be a Merry Christmastime again,” Brat predicted sarcastically. “We’re probably gonna bust the budget caps again. But this time, the one huge new variable is Obama and the lame duck.” Brat then said, “You can end up funding anything, right? The Puerto Rico bailout, his multiple billions, underfunded; bailout Illinois; do trade agreements; fund energy projects – the whole nine yards. That’s what’s in play.”
“The budget is the most important bill of the year, by far,” he pointed out. “Article I says Congress makes all laws; we have the power of the purse, but we’re not using it.”
Brat said the common talking point about the U.S. government’s “running out of money” is something that “hurts my brain.”
“The press always frames this in order to throw the House Freedom Caucus under the bus, about 40 of us,” he said. “If you would have followed regular order, there would be no government shutdown because we would have already done a budget. Some of this is almost just calculated to produce tension at the year.”
We were asking for a long-term CR that funds the government through March of next year, when the politics is all sorted out, and no one’s going to be doing any funny business in a lame duck, and then the President and Mitch McConnell start floating the idea of a government shutdown to the press, and then the press uses that to whack conservatives. By the way, this is about the budget and the economy. The economy’s growing at one percent. The budget’s going to be a $600 billion deficit, under Republican leadership, this year alone. $600 billion! That’s the part that is never reported on.
“There’s still time to do it, all right,” he promised. “But the American people need to speak up loud and clear and tell us that.”
Brat lamented that while there seemed to be a great deal of energy around “outsiders” on both sides of the aisle, during this election year, “the American people send back all the budget-busters.”
“They’re not doing their homework, he said. “If you’ve got one of the guys that’s raising the budget, and putting upward pressure on the budget, and throwing our kids under the bus – I mean, all the incumbents came back.” He added, “Some of them are good; some of them are voting to bust the budget. And so the American people have got to sharpen the pencil and do a little bit better on the homework.”
Brat agreed with a caller that the term “government shutdown” is misleading, since there is no chance of essential government functions actually shutting down during a budget battle. He explained how “the press has a monopoly on the language, unfortunately” when it comes to public discussion of budgetary matters:
I go out to the press every day. I say $20 trillion debt, $26 trillion debt, in a decade. All revenues in ten years will go only to mandatory spending programs. So in ten years, the game’s up. Social Security and Medicare are insolvent in about 14 years.
The key word that the press uses to pressure us, they say, “You guys need to learn to govern. You need to learn how to compromise. You need to learn how to unify.” What that means up in D.C. is always only one thing: it means upward spending.
It’s very easy to appear to just say, “Yes, yes, yes” because then you stay in office, and you don’t have to do any of the hard work. Governing is actually the exact wrong word. We’re not governing. We’re throwing the kids under the bus, the economy is growing at one percent, and the status quo is what got us there. We don’t need little marginal changes. We need bold moves.
“We shouldn’t be anywhere near a government shutdown because Paul Ryan and the leadership promised us regular order,” Brat stressed. “You cannot have a shutdown if you do the budget, and then vote on the Floor. There has not been a vote on the House Floor for the United States budget this year. It’s really quite unbelievable.”
It’s also “illegal in a technical sense,” he added, “but it’s just got no teeth. I mean, Obama’s been illegal since the day I got in here. He did the unconstitutional amnesty my first week up here.” He went on to state, “I had to vote against the rule. I had to vote against the budget. I had to vote against the leadership because I promised my constituents I’d go up there and straighten things out. I was on paper, promising certain outcomes, and I’ve held to it.”
Brat offered a snapshot of the struggle between Establishment and anti-Establishment forces within the Republican Party, from the viewpoint of an outsider who gained office by knocking off the GOP Majority Leader in a stunning primary upset:
I term-limited myself to 12 years, and that’s the most powerful tool we have to fix this thing. If you come in on Day One, the normal congressman or woman who wants to stay in office forever – if that’s the case, you want to be chairman of a committee. Well, that happens in about 12 years, only if you vote 100 percent with the leadership. You get the math there. You’ve got to vote with the leadership, if you want to rise and become a committee sub-chair, chair, or whatever.
On top of that, if you’re in a tough seat and you need money from the Republican committee, you better vote 100 percent with leadership.
That’s great, if you have a benevolent dictator who’s doing everything right for the economy and the budget, but the numbers clearly show we’re not. … The government has been captured by special interests and their money.
So a lot of this stuff is good, right? Transportation bill, education bill, science funding bill, energy bill – but it all adds up. Too much has been promised from the taxpayers back home, who don’t have money. The average person right now, they have about four hundred bucks cash on the side to meet an emergency.
The only shocker for me was that this applies not only to domestic economic policy; it also applies to foreign policy. The Iran deal, you can just see the billions and billions and billions of dollars, putting pressure on everybody up here. That has been the shocker and the new unexpected piece for me. It explains why our foreign policy is just blowing up around the world.
On that subject, Brat denounced the controversial Clinton Foundation as “just a cash flow mechanism, pay to play … instead of doing business for the people of the United States, and for our interests abroad, we’re hooking up every crony around the world with business deals, to help them, instead of to help the average American citizen.”
He encouraged supporters to visit his website and make a donation, since as he noted earlier, outsiders like the House Freedom Caucus cannot always count on financial support from the Republican political machine. In fact, they cannot even count on their bills getting past their own Party leadership.
“People say, why don’t you guys pass this? Well, we’ve got 40 out of 240. We’re trying to impeach Koskinen, and our leadership doesn’t want to impeach Koskinen, who’s broken the law,” he complained, referring to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Even George Will came out yesterday, in a great piece, and said, “Leadership, wake up!” This guy has withheld information, he’s in charge of a huge bureaucracy that governs trillions of dollars, and James Madison, in the founding period, said very clearly, that type of activity deserves impeachment. It’s all sitting there. Go read George Will’s piece, and ask leadership, “What in the world is going wrong?”
“They just don’t want to rock the apple cart at all. They don’t want any instability, when we’re in a period of total instability. We need some big changes up here, not at the margin,” he concluded.
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