Senate budget compromise: U.S. Sen. Doug Jones sees hope, Congressman Mo Brooks predicts disaster
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the federal government faces the prospect of a shutdown if a funding deal isn’t reached by midnight, Alabama’s newest U.S. Senator and a Huntsville-area congressman have starkly different views on the merits of a Senate budget compromise proposal.
That proposal was negotiated by Senate leaders from both parties and is expected to be approved during a Senate vote today.
The measure would significantly increase spending by lifting budget caps over two years by about $300 billion in both defense and nondefense spending. The caps were set during a 2011 budget impasse. It also sets the stage for two years of government funding, ending the current approach of stopgap spending measures.
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, called the Senate proposal a “debt junkie’s dream.”
Newly elected U.S. Sen. Doug Jones supports the measure and says it reflects how much can be accomplished when Senators of both parties work together. Alabama’s senior U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby also expressed support for the measure.
Jones said the budget proposal addresses multiple issues.
“Absolutely, I think this is wonderful evidence of what happens when you reach across the aisle and can come to bipartisan agreement,” Jones said. “It’s a two year deal to fund the government. It doesn’t just kick the can down the road for this year. It goes beyond that.”
Jones said the measure also funds military projects in Alabama beyond what a House bill passed Tuesday calls for, and provides funding for the CHIP program and rural health care in Alabama.
“Rural health care in the state of Alabama that was going to be lost for some 350,000 Alabamians who depend on community health centers,” Jones said. “It also funds CHIP, the child health insurance program for 10 years rather than six. It’s an excellent bill.
“It is an expensive bill, but it is an excellent bill and it is, I think, so much better than what the House sent over here and one that people should be proud of, as to what can be accomplished when you reach across the aisle.”
Jones also said if the budget issues can be resolved, it clears the way for a full, fair debate in the Senate next week on immigration. He said a “neutral” immigration bill will be introduced and Senators can offer amendments, fully debate them and craft legislation. Jones said the Senate will pass a bill that protects the “Dreamers” – people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, who are now facing a March deportation deadline – and provide money for border security.
Brooks used apocalyptic language in spelling out his opposition to the Senate budget bill. A longtime deficit hawk, Brooks did support the $1.5 trillion 2017 tax cut in December.
Brooks’ office issued a statement from Brooks Wednesday night:
“Today, Senate Democrats demand excessive non-defense spending that America simply cannot afford. Despite America’s dire financial straits, Senate Democrats demand that we spend money we don’t have, have to borrow to get, and cannot afford to pay back. In sum, the Senate Democrat spending bill is a debt junkie’s dream. If the Senate Democrat debt junkie spending bill passes, America’s annual deficit in 2018 is likely to blow through the trillion dollar mark indefinitely until the country suffers a debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy that destroys a proud nation it took our ancestors centuries to build.
“In a national bankruptcy, the Constitution and federal statutes mandate that debt service and entitlement spending be paid first, leaving little, if anything, for national defense or NASA. As such, in a national bankruptcy, the military and NASA would likely be zeroed out, thereby risking the lives of all Americans while, at a local level, doing great damage to the Tennessee Valley’s economy.”
If the Senate passes its measure, it would have to back to the House for approval. Conservative House members have joined Brooks in expressing opposition to the bill and they are joined by an unlikely ally House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who says she won’t support a budget deal without promises by House Speaker Paul Ryan that the House will have a full debate on immigration reform, including protection for the “Dreamers.”