The budget proposed by President Donald J. Trump would be disruptive and destructive in Indian Country. (White House photo)
The federal budget has huge challenges for Indian Country, including the prospect of a shutdown this fall. The coming fight over the debt limit is an example of the complexity ahead.
Let’s talk about the budget … and its impact on Indian Country.
This is Trahant Reports.
It’s easy to blame Donald J. Trump for a terrible budget, a budget that is designed to change the nature of government immediately. It’s also a destructive document that would result in great hardship across the nation and Indian Country. It’s not too strong to say that this plan would mean an early death for too many people.
Congress, not the president, decides how money is spent.
And it is unlikely that Congress will vote to eliminate agencies ranging from the Corporation for Public Broadcast to the Denali Commission. The minus signs inked across budget lines will be less severe than requested.
The best outcome is probably another Continuing Resolution, a document that patches together a ‘temporary’ budget for a few months or possibly the entire year. That’s become business as usual in Washington.
That’s the good news. The bad news — strike that — make it the worse news is that neither political party has enough support to enact a thoughtful spending plan. The crisis is not a financial one (well, it is sort of) but it’s a systemic failure to govern.
The best example of that problem is the debt ceiling. Basically it’s a law that allows the Secretary of Treasury to finance the debt that the United States already owes. The money has already been appropriated. It’s spent. So the only question is to pay the bill or not. Yet nearly every member of Congress (from the Tea Party to even then Sen. Barack Obama) bluster about the debt and threaten to withhold their vote. But the party in the White House cannot operate that way. Obama changed his tune as quickly as did Trump. It’s the nature of the job. Why does this matter? Because failure to pass this bill would result in the “default” by the United States on its credit. This could force major spending cuts — far worse than those suggested in the Trump budget. And interest rates could go up sharply.
Congress isn’t run by two political parties; there are three major factions. (This is not unusual: Just before the Civil War the Republican Party was deeply divided by economic conservatives and the Radical Republicans who were organized against slavery.) Today’s Congress is composed of Republicans, the more strident House Freedom Caucus, and the Democrats.
It will take votes from two of the three factions to lift the debt ceiling and to pass a budget in the House.
Whatever spending bill emerges from the House must win 60 votes in the Senate.
This is real juggling — yet the Juggler-in-Chief, he tweeted last month: “Our Country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”
A shutdown is a terrible outcome for Indian Country.
I am Mark Trahant.