In recent weeks Republican appropriators have produced a torrent of bills that provide some of the largest spending increases in a decade. Spending on the environment, education, housing, health care, foreign aid, training and labor would soar. Scores of outdated and unproductive agencies that were supposedly headed for the federal graveyard when Republicans first came to power have now had their budgets fully replenished.
While many of the appropriations bills — with price tags totaling more than $500 billion — are still being written, the preliminary versions are generous in the extreme. The $270 billion Labor, Health and Human Services bill will cause the combined budgets of the Labor Department, the Education Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to have risen by an astounding 29 percent in just three years.
The budget crafted two years ago by House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich called for the elimination of some 300 major programs that long ago outlived their missions. This year’s budget increases the budgets for many of those programs. In fact, it’s quite possible that when this Congress adjourns in a few weeks, Republicans will not have shut down a single one of the thousands of programs that crowd the budget.
Some of those programs have been allotted more bloated budgets than ever before. The Senate calls for a 35 percent increase for bilingual education, an 8 percent increase for Goals 2000, a 20 percent hike for home heating assistance, a 50 percent increase for public housing and a 5 percent increase for Americorps. The battle over the fate of the National Endowment for the Arts has become a kind of litmus test of the GOP’s resolve to cut spending. The Senate has repudiated fiscal conservatives by approving a 1 percent increase in the NEA’s budget.