Image: United States Congressman Kevin Brady, Republican of The Woodlands, discussed federal spending, the budget, and the 2018 Omnibus spending statute with his Grassroots Roundtable at Black Walnut Cafe in The Woodlands on Friday, March 30, 2018. From left to right, Brady, campaign consultant Christian Collins, State Republican Executive Committee candidate Walter West, II, and Montgomery County Republican Party Precinct Chairman Reagan Reed.
The Woodlands, March 31 – United States Congressman Kevin Brady faced an unhappy room of constituents whom he had invited to a breakfast meeting, which he and his campaign labeled a “Grassroots Roundtable,” at the Black Walnut Cafe in The Woodlands on Friday, March 30, 2018. The meeting of eighteen people, besides Brady, discussed the recent vote on the omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which Congress passed on March 22 and President Trump signed into law on March 24.
Brady noted that the $1.3 trillion spending bill only approved the expenditures under the twelve discretionary areas of spending that the appropriations process would otherwise have concerned, but that $2.7 trillion of spending on entitlement programs, including Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security had nothing to do with the legislation. For that reason, Brady explained, the omnibus package did not include funding for Planned Parenthood, despite popular belief otherwise, because that funding goes primarily through the Medicaid program.
“Why does this keep happening?” Brady asked rhetorically. “The budget process is broken…it’s a process which is almost 40 years old. Washington, D.C., is designed to manufacture spending…The Senate has turnover over the power to [democrat leader] Chuck Schumer,” Brady said. Brady said that he supported the package because “our fight is always for rebuilding the military.”
Brady told the group of some grassroots conservatives that he has “urged senators to make some exceptions to the 60-vote rule” which requires 60 votes in order to invoke cloture to end filibusters in the United States Senate. The 60-vote rule has existed since 1975 when the Senate reduced the cloture requirement from the previous two-thirds, or 67 votes, requirement. Conservatives had used filibusters to fight against civil rights legislation since the days of the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. In 2013, democrats amended the U.S. Senate rules to except executive branch nominees and judicial appointments from the 60-vote rule. At that time all Republicans and three democrats voted against the exception, which passed nevertheless by a 52 to 48 vote.
Most Republicans in the United States Senate still oppose tinkering with the 60-vote rule, although at least two – Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) – have openly called for an exception to the rule to allow a simple majority to approve appropriations bills.
Proposals to eliminate the Senate filibuster for spending bills, which have emanated from Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, place those Republicans in the ironic position of advocating easier passage of federal spending bills than other legislation. The question many grassroots conservatives raise is why Congressional Republicans are unwilling to allow government shutdowns to occur as their primary bargaining chip.
Brady explained the omnibus legislation included 70 miles of new border wall in addition to the 650 miles of border wall already put in place during President George W. Bush’s tenure. The omnibus legislation also provided for more border agents, detection, and surveillance along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Brady noted.
Brady told the group, “I don’t think we should provide citizenship to anyone who comes through the back door of immigration. The president thinks we should but that must come with a border wall.” President Trump is negotiating with Senator Schumer and House democrat leader Nancy Pelosi directly on the immigration issue, including the so-called “Dreamers” legislation. The Congressman also said that the omnibus legislation was written to prevent the use of defense funds for the wall, “because the military needs every dime we’ve given them and more,” he said.
As for entitlements, which the omnibus spending bill didn’t address, Brady described a $120 billion reform package for the Social Security program, Medicaid reform which has already passed the U.S. House, and the potential for substantial welfare reform. The welfare program comprises approximately $1 trillion of the $2.7 trillion of entitlements. The federal government also runs at a $1 trillion deficit.
Montgomery County Republican Precinct Chairman-Elect Jon Bouche, of Oak Ridge North, confronted Brady with the rhetorical question, “You’re blaming the Senate for this bill, but isn’t there a Senator right now having breakfast somewhere who is blaming the House for this bad bill?” Bouche was among a group of conservatives who led a move to hold Brady and other Texas Republican Congressmen who voted for the Consolidated Appropriations Act and other omnibus spending bills “in contempt” at the Senatorial Districts 3 and 4 Republican Conventions last Saturday in Montgomery County.
Robin Lennon, President and Founder of the Kingwood Tea Party, said, “We don’t control both Houses of Congress and the White House, because we have many Republicans who are really democrats. We need every conservative to go out and vote.” Lennon later called for the people in the room to lead a move to end the 60-vote requirement in the United States Senate, so that appropriations bills could more easily pass.
Brady agreed that spending and national security legislation should be exceptions to the 60-vote rule. “I don’t know if Senator Cornyn fully supports that proposal,” the Congressman, who is also Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said.
Woodlands Republican Women President Pat Truesdale commented, “Well we can’t do much because the $1.3 trillion out of $4 trillion of federal spending is all our representatives get to vote on. But then I see [Kentucky Senator] Rand Paul’s lists of dollars for junk [in the omnibus legislation]. I don’t see us doing what needs to be done even on the $1.3 trillion of spending.” Brady replied, “As long as we have to negotiate with Schumer and Pelosi, you’re going to see that junk,” referring to Senator Paul’s list of pork barrel projects included in the omnibus bill.
The meeting also included invitees Walter West (an East Montgomery County Republican who is running for the State Republican Executive Committee), Reagan Reed (a leading Republican Precinct Chairman in Montgomery County), Dale Fessenden (Montgomery County Eagle Forum Chairman), JJ Hollie (President of the Woodlands Chamber of Commerce), Dave Welch (Texas Pastors Council), Teresa Strack (Montgomery County Right to Life President), Dale Inman, and others. Brady Campaign consultant Christian Collins organized the event and acted as the moderator.