A $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. More military spending than any time in history. How did things get to this point?
Even some of the most loyal supporters of President Trump have expressed both frustration and dismay that he signed an omnibus spending bill larger than all but one signed by former President Obama.
Angry opposition has come from the likes of Laura Ingraham, Amy Kremer, and Ann Coulter. But not everyone is upset.
Matt House, communications director for Sen. Chuck Schumer, said on Twitter that he’s “tired of all the winning.” Schumer himself was excited about all that was included in the spending bill. He said, “It's a funny thing. In a certain sense, we're able to accomplish more in the minority than we were when we had the presidency or even were in the majority.” And Defense Secretary James Mattis said he was “humbled” by receiving the “largest military budget in history.”
Many people may have been stunned by the President signing such a bill, especially if they were only paying attention to the claims of mainstream politicians and pundits the last two years. On the left, the great fear was that Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress would slash and burn all kinds of federal programs. On the right, and in some libertarian circles, the great hope was pretty much the same.
But no one should be surprised at how things have turned out so far. For opponents of big government and massive military budgets, the president’s core beliefs are the greatest danger and strongest reason to expect more of the same in the future.
In a brief press conference last week explaining why he’d sign legislation so many of his voters obviously opposed, Trump made it quite clear. He said his “number one duty is to keep Americans safe.”
But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The real “number one duty” of the president is to follow the Constitution.
This is laid out in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8 of the Constitution - the oath of office: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
In his press conference, President Trump appeared to sincerely lament some of the programs the omnibus will fund. But, because of his incorrect belief that his top job is to keep Americans safe, coupled with an errant view that more military spending will do the job, he was willing to set aside those issues to achieve his primary goal.
While some might be tempted to shrug off the president’s statement as one of convenience, an excuse to get away with signing the massive spending bill, the unfortunate truth is this is part and parcel of his core belief and one that he’s repeated numerous times.
Last May, he said, "my highest duty is to keep America safe." He repeated this in a tweet last September, saying “Making America Safe is my number one priority.”
Think of it this way: A president who believes his top duty is to “keep Americans educated,” and holds the view that more federal spending on education would accomplish that goal is far more likely to sign a spending bill that provides the biggest education budget in history, even if it also included funding for many other projects that president opposed.
The same could happen with any federal program that any president holds as their top priority.
As long as President Trump continues to believe that more military spending will result in him doing the job he incorrectly believes to be his “highest duty,” no one should be surprised when the next omnibus expands military spending even further. It’s the sure-fire way to guarantee he’ll ignore everything else Congress is certain to put in the legislation, including more funding for federal programs the president or his supporters have repeatedly said they oppose.
The “Father of the Constitution," James Madison, issued a poignant warning:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.President Trump will never be able to heed this warning unless he has a foundational shift in core beliefs and embraces his real “highest duty.”
Michael Boldin is the Founder and Executive Director of the Tenth Amendment Center.