May 15, 2022

Indications are that control of the House of Representatives will swing from Democrats to Republicans after the midterm elections.  The importance of this potential change can’t be emphasized enough.  But will Republicans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

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The tremendous opportunity for much smaller government is held by the House of Representatives’ power of the purse.  The opportunity is to defund big government.  Generally, if any government program, office, agency, bureau, department, or administration does not have money appropriated to it, then it is defunded and can no longer operate.  This means that the House of Representatives has a large say in the size of government.

In our Constitution, Article I, Section 7, Clause 1 states, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”  Otherwise, all bills must pass in both the House and the Senate in identical form and then be signed by the president to become law.  All things omitted from the bill, all things not included, all things neglected, do not become law.  Generally, proactive work must be accomplished to provide government appropriations to maintain the size of the government or to grow it.

A favorite and perennial target for elimination by campaigning Republicans is the Department of Education.  This imperative has gained traction recently from government-imposed COVID-19 lockdowns, which inadvertently introduced parents to the government schools’ agendas indoctrinating children in racist, hateful, and divisive Critical Race Theory and recruitment into and celebration of LGBT behaviors.  To this end, the libertarian Republican congressman from Kentucky, Thomas Massie, has introduced the concise bill, H.R. 899, reading, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2022.”  This bill is posturing for political effect.  If it could even pass Congress, the bill certainly would be vetoed by the president.  It is unnecessary in any case.  The Department of Education can be eliminated by simply not funding it.  And the House alone can unilaterally control that decision.

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Elected Republicans have decimated the idea that government spending can be cut incrementally.  Over several decades, constituents have learned incessantly that requests made to elected Republicans to cut spending instead result in a decrease in the rate of growth.  This congressional response has ratcheted the size of Leviathan ever larger.  On the other hand, unambiguous words elected Republicans understand, but most are loath to embrace, are “defunding” and “elimination.”

Smaller government is more likely with a Speaker Jim Jordan than with Speaker Kevin McCarthy.  Mr. McCarthy is cut from the same progressive cloth as former speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan.  McCarthy’s signature policy declaration, the nascent Commitment to America, has little to do with much smaller government.  It has much in the way of posturing, holding hearings, and foot-stompings.  The absence of any concrete measures to reduce the size of government is notable.  Mr. McCarthy will argue that nothing can be done until there is both a veto-proof Senate majority and a Republican president.

On the other hand, Mr. Jordan is more aligned with Senator Rick Scott’s vision for a much smaller government.  If Mr. Jordan becomes speaker, then some government programs, offices, agencies, bureaus, departments, and administrations likely will be eliminated and others cut down in real size.

There are several tools Republicans could wield to achieve much smaller government.  The first of these, and probably the most important, is to pass single appropriations bills instead of omnibus spending bills.  Single bills are more susceptible to debate, whittling down, and even elimination than omnibus bills.  In principle, each government program, office, agency, bureau, department, and administration would have to stand on its on merit to warrant further funding.  Congress migrated to omnibus bills precisely to stop debate because elected politicians wanted neither public feedback while the sausage was being made nor accountability for the finished product.

Consistent with single appropriations bills, earmarks could be disallowed expressly.  Instead, each earmark should be considered as a single appropriation bill and be dispositioned according to its own merit.  Elected politicians rely on earmarks to do a lot of horse-trading in omnibus spending bills, so such scrutiny won’t be welcomed.

A third tool for achieving smaller government is ending baseline budgeting.  Baseline budgeting is the process that automatically increases government funding by the rate of inflation.  It is ironic that elected politicians think government should be shielded from the effects of inflation since they are responsible for it.  The Federal Reserve causes monetary inflation by monetizing Congress’s deficit spending and accumulated debt.