I’m having trouble finding much comment online from our Congressional delegation on the big budget resolution they voted for last week. Most Republicans are bragging up the magic numbers, not the policy details. I probably wouldn’t go into much detail, either, if I were voting to further damage the social safety net and the middle class.
KEVN-TV tells us that Senator Mike Rounds sees the budget resolution as an opportunity to change government spending. Of course, as we know from the debate over the youth minimum wage, “opportunity” is South Dakota Republican code for cuts:
The Republican–backed plan promises to cut spending by $5 trillion over the next ten years.
Rounds said, it will cut funding to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps. It could also repeal President Obama’s healthcare plan [Robert Grant, “Senator Rounds’ Take on Budget Resolution Plan,” KEVN-TV, 2015.05.07].
Senator Thune calls the budget resolution a “framework for efficient, effective, and accountable government.” Senator Thune doesn’t mention that by supporting that budget resolution, he voted to cut the Pell Grants that helped many of those Lake Area graduates that he watched the President congratulate on Friday. Senator Thune says that higher education is important and that we should look for ways to make it more affordable, but his budget vote shows he thinks higher education is not important enough to stop him from making higher education less affordable for millions of Americans who’d like to stay in or join the middle class.
What else did you vote to cut, Senators Rounds and Thune?
Democrats vowed to block deep funding cuts for medical research, food stamps, housing programs for low-income workers and the federal Pell Grant program for students. Instead, they are calling on Republicans to help craft a plan to lift the spending caps for both domestic and military spending [Kelsey Snell, “Senate Passes Budget Even as Impasse on Spending Continues,” Washington Post, 2015.05.05].
Medical research? Thune and Rounds say we don’t need any more science or knowledge.
Food stamps? Thune and Rounds say we don’t need to help poor people eat or help urban Senators see a good reason to help pass the next Farm Bill.
Housing programs? Mike Rounds has all the housing security he needs with a committee position he can use to sic inspectors general on the Army Corps of Engineers for flooding his fancy floodplain mansion. Why should he worry about anyone else being able to afford a little house?
But hey, calm down—the budget resolution is all show. Rounds and Thune are just setting up another vote to repeal Obamacare:
The measure pleases the GOP faithful by setting up a debate this summer that would permit Republicans to finally pass legislation to repeal Obama’s health care law. That’s because Senate Democrats would be unable to filibuster the repeal bill under fast-track budget rules, though Obama is certain to veto it.
But Republicans have no plans to follow up the budget document’s call for other spending cuts with binding legislation that would, for instance, curb Medicare payments to providers, tighten eligibility rules for food stamps, or dump poor and disabled people off the traditional Medicaid program [Andrew Taylor, “Senate Adopts GOP Budget Targeting Obamacare,” AP via Yahoo, 2015.05.05].
There, see? Our delegation votes for cuts to Medicare, Pell Grants, and science, but they don’t really mean it. They’re still just obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act.
The Rural Community Assistance Partnership tweeted (and Senator Rounds proudly retweeted) its thanks to Senator Rounds, Senator Thune, and Congresswoman Noem for their “support of rural America.” Rural areas have a higher percentage of residents who don’t have employer-provided health insurance, who rely on public insurance, and who fall in the coverage gap that the ACA can cover with Medicaid expansion (if their governors would just get off their ideological backsides and do it!). The Affordable Care Act is vital to rural health. Even if we can blithely disregard most of the words on the page that Thune, Rounds, and Noem voted for, even if we accept the notion that all that they really want to do is repeal Obamacare, our Congressional delegation would still be guilty of threatening to undermine the health and pocketbooks of rural South Dakotans.
But Senator Rounds, Senator Thune, and Representative Noem aren’t just voting to repeal Obamacare. They are voting to end Medicare as we know it, slash Medicaid, cut Social Security, throw another 400,000 kids out of Head Start, and raise taxes on working families, all to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy. (See the list of cuts from Senator Bernie Sanders, who isn’t afraid to expose the specifics of what Rounds, Thune, and Noem want.) We don’t get to hold Rounds accountable for this budget vote until 2020, but we can make Thune and Noem answer for these destructive policies next year at the polls.
Related (update 10:33 CDT): Rounds, Thune, and Noem have time to vote for this destructive budget resolution, but they still haven’t found time to fund fixing our roads.