Jim Beam column:Voters getting taste of future

Published 11:46 am Wednesday, December 28, 2022

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American voters got a sample of what’s coming in 2023 when Republicans take control of the U.S. House on Jan. 3. It was the way they voted on the last major bill — a $1.7 trillion spending bill financing federal agencies and providing more aid to Ukraine.

The Senate vote on the bill was 68-29, the vote for coming from 48 Democrats, 18 Republicans and 2 independents. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted for the bill along with two of the more conservative Republicans — U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

The House vote that came later was much closer, 225-201. Only nine Republicans voted for  the bill, and seven of them aren’t returning to Congress in January.

Why the difference? It’s because U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who wants to become speaker of the House when the GOP takes over, trashed the bill. He needs support from conservatives in his party who oppose aid to Ukraine and who want some concessions from McCarthy in order to vote for him as speaker.

The Associated Press said McCarthy is appealing for support from those conservatives in his caucus who have largely trashed the size of the bill and many of the priorities it contains. He spoke with a raised voice for about 25 minutes, saying the bill spent too much and does too little to curb illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl across the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is a monstrosity that is one of the most shameful acts I’ve seen in this body,” McCarthy said.

The bill has a 6% increase in domestic programs totaling $772.2 billion and a 10% increase in defense programs totaling $858 billion. That increase in defense spending is particularly popular with conservatives who have been critical of cuts in defense.

The bill also contains a $500 increase in the maximum size of Pell grants for low-income college students, a $100 million increase in block grants to states for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, a 22% increase in spending on VA medical care and $3.7 billion for farmers and ranchers hit by natural disasters.

Congress also approved roughly $40 billion in emergency spending in the U.S. Most of that is to assist communities like ours across the country recovering from drought, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.

Yes, unfortunately, there is $15.3 billion for more than 7,200 projects that lawmakers sought for their home states and districts. Like Louisiana legislators who have their pet projects, members of Congress are no different.

Congress calls them earmarks and members have to post their requests online and attest that they have no financial interest in the projects. However, many fiscal conservatives call it unnecessary spending.

Aid to Ukraine has also been targeted by the far right members of the GOP.

Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., tweeted, “How can we send an additional $47 BILLION to Ukraine for security while terrorists, drugs, and criminals flood our southern border?”

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., tweeted, “$100 billion to Ukraine. Let’s put that in perspective. That’s more than $200 million this year from each congressional district. What could your congressman have done for your district with $200 million?” Massie included past rounds of aid in his $100 billion.

Americans will have to get used to the fact that there will be more than 170 Republicans in Congress in 2023 who have either denied or cast doubts on the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s presidential win in 2020. The Huffington Post said some will be at the highest levels of House leadership, setting the agenda for the next two years.

The Post listed the names of 19 senators and 154 members of the House who make up the list of 173 members of Congress who have denied or cast doubts about the 2020 election.

Louisiana members of Congress on that list are Sen. John Kennedy and Reps. Garret Graves, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who is expected to become House majority leader.

Perhaps the most significant part of the spending bill is that part that the AP calls “a historic revision to federal election law that aims to prevent any future presidents or presidential candidates from trying to overturn an election.”

The American Press will have an editorial explaining in detail the changes to the Electoral Count Act of 1887 that are designed to protect the future outcome of this country’s presidential elections.