Budget Tool That Cuts Back Crazy Expenditures From Omnibus Bill: In this episode, we have special guest former congressman Bob McEwen on to discuss a new budget tool that will cut back unnecessary spending and will speed up the whole budget approval process. Tune in now to learn more!
Air Date:Â 05/07/2018
Guest:Â Congressman Bob McEwen
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: Â As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith And The Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we”re talking about the day”s hottest topics on policy, faith, other areas of the culture. But we”re always talking about those things from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.
We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Tim Barton”s with us, national speaker and pastor, and president of WallBuilders. My name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas legislator.
You can find out more about us and the program at WallBuildersLive.com. That’s our radio site – WallBuildersLive.com. You can even send in your questions. Send them to [email protected] I know it’s confusing, so the radio site is WallBuildersLive.com. Our main web is WallBuilders.com. And your questions go to [email protected] Hope you got all of that. But anyway, check out WallBuilders.com because there’s a lot of great tools there for you to equip your family, inspire them, and get them engaged in the culture in helping to preserve liberty here in America for the next generation.
Later in the program Bob McEwen is going to be with us to take that biblical, historical, constitutional, viewpoint on a topic that we hit just a few weeks ago. David, Tim, I know, Tim, you probably remember this – or maybe you blocked it out like I did because we failed the test so miserably. But David had quizzed us on this word “impoundment” and we both thought we were talking about cars maybe getting impounded or something – I had no idea anyway.
Let”s Talk About Impoundment
Yeah, sometimes he just makes up words and then wants us to define what they mean.
And that’s ridiculous. Here’s the thing. I have been a millennial my whole life and we’ve never used that word in that context, so I think he’s just making things up. No, obviously, as we were educated in what impoundment meant it’s something that we discuss on the show. Most Americans are not familiar with this concept. It’s something that, even for us, we’ve read the Constitution, we’ve studied the founding documents, we”ve read the Declaration, and it’s still a phrase that was, for me, it was kind of brand new. I’ve heard people talk about it, but never using that word in that context when it comes to Congress.
And so we thought, “We really ought to dig into this a little bit more.” Because when you look at what Congress is doing, when you look at the budgets they’re working on, and the things that we as Americans oftentimes get frustrated about. And going, “Wait a second, why are they doing this? How is it working this way? And how can they even do that?” We really just need a better understanding. It’s hard to hold Congress accountable for their actions if we don’t understand why their actions are. It’s hard for us to say, “We want you to do this if we don’t know what this actually is.”
So, we really need to get a better understanding of this. And that’s why we thought, you know what, Congressman Bob McEwen who was in Congress for a lot of years, who did budgets for a lot of years, he’s someone who really understands this concept, understands the notion. And really, he’s such a good communicator. He can take very complicated complex issues – even can help someone like you Rick or me, understand these big words, and what they mean, and how they work. And we thought we just get Bob on and help explain this in a way that only Bob can and make it super easy to understand. But certainly something that’s worth talking about.
It’s great to have somebody who’s actually been there, been a part of it, and also really good at explaining it. Bob McEwen, former congressman, he”ll be with us when we return on WallBuilders Live.
Moment From American History
This is TimBarton from WallBuilders with another moment from American history. In the early seventeen hundreds the Reverend John Wise preached that all men were created equal, that taxation without representation was tyranny, and that God’s preferred form of government was the consent of the governed.
All of which is language recognizable in the Declaration of Independence. Why? Because in 1772 the Sons of Liberty led by Founders Sam Adams and John Hancock reprinted and distributed the Reverend Wise’s sermons.
Four years later, much of the Declaration reflected the language of those sermons by John Wise. Â In 1926 on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, President Calvin Coolidge affirmed, “The thoughts in the Declaration can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was saying.”
Few today know that the Declaration was so strongly influenced by the Rev. John Wise. For more information on this and other stories go to WallBuilders.com.
We”re back on WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. Our guest today, former Congressman Bob McEwen, always good to have you, sir. Thanks for your time today.
Congressman Bob McEwen:
Thank you. Honored to be with you as always.
Hey, you’ve been in and around this whole budget process in Washington D.C. for many years, you know how this thing works. I had never heard of this little used budget tool and Barton was talking about it the other day and said, “Man, let’s get Congressman McEwen on tell us if this thing could actually happen.” It sounds like a tool for possibly negating or clawing back some of the crazy expenditures in this last omnibus spending bill.
A Little Background
Congressman Bob McEwen:
Well, let me just give you a little background. I don”t want to get in the weeds and make it boring, but because when you go to Austin, or Columbus, or Sacramento, or someplace, the state legislatures when they pass a bill it has in it the authority to do it and the money with which to to finance it.
The only place it has a two part process is in Washington. Washington has what is called an authorizing program in which the armed services committee gives you the authority to have the Air Force, the Navy. And the transportation gives you the authority to build highways, and the Agriculture Committee gives you the authority to have an agricultural program. But then you have to take whatever they’ve designed as a ticket. You walk over to the Appropriations Committee and the Appropriations Committee appropriates.
So, in your highway bill you might say we’re going to build 36 bridges, but the Appropriations Committee says, “No, I think we only want to build 29.” So, the appropriations committee controls how that happens.
Now on top of it, in 1975 they put a new one on top called the Budget Committee. And the Budget Committee would allow everybody to put overall numbers that the appropriations committee and the authorizing committees had to deal with. That was called the Budget Act of 1975. And there was a provision along with it the same year in which they would say that you have a reconciliation. That when they tried to spend more than they had in the budget which had to pass early in the year then you could vote to reconcile the two. That is, you could bring it into balance with the budget and the effort was to control spending.
Well, the Empowerment Act which said that when you’re spending more than you actually need that the president could come back– and what happened was from George Washington to Richard Nixon, if the president didn’t want to spend something he just didn’t do it. For example, the B 52 was still the backbone of the Air Force. John Kennedy in 1962 decided that he didn’t want the last fourth of the B 52 and just quit building them. That’s the way every president operated up until Nixon, Nixon was very weak. In 1974 and that when Ted Kennedy passed this empowerment act that said the president couldn’t do that anymore.
What If He Didn”t Want to Spend the Money?
Congressman Bob McEwen:
But what he could do was if he didn’t want to spend something he could send a notice to the Congress and say, “I don’t want to spend this money.” And the Congress could then vote up or down on whether or not it should be spent and shifted away from the president to the Congress, so they controlled everything. Well, that happened over 1600 times with the various presidents up until George W. Bush and Barack Obama. And the two of them didn’t bother to do that.
So what this president and many of people who have urged him to do is to take the spending budget that the Congress has approved and some of the things that are in there that he didn’t want to spend. Say, “Look, here’s a handful of these things that I don’t want money to go to.” And send it to the Congress and allow them to have a straight up or down vote on that particular part of the budget. So, it looks like he’s going to do that and hopefully we can save some money.
So, it basically gives them a chance to have a second look at that item and that item by itself. Rather than it being thrown in as a rider and part of the big huge omnibus bill that they have to vote for in order to get all the other things through. They can finally look at that item by itself if the president sends it to them under this empowerment act.
Congressman Bob McEwen:
And so why is that important? Virtually every governor, when he sees something like half a billion dollars going to Planned Parenthood, he can draw a line through it and he can veto that line. The president of the United States does not have that authority. The Congress therefore loves it. So, they stick all their stuff in there and make him either– and then here’s what’s happened. This is really bad and people should understand it.
People Need to Understand This
Congressman Bob McEwen:
The way that the law says is that by April of each year they will pass a budget that gives the numbers to the committees and then the committee is going to do their authorization. But the appropriating, giving the actual money to spent, all has to be done by October 1st the beginning of the fiscal year. So, you have May, June, July, August, September, October, in which to pass the spending money. What the leadership has done, that’s the Speaker and the Majority Leader, what they’ve done is not pass the appropriations bills, so that it comes October 1st the beginning of the fiscal year, there’s no money.
And so then what they do is they bring everybody and they throw everything in the big pile and say, “Oh my goodness. If we don’t pass this, why the government’s going to shut down tomorrow, and grandma’s going to be out in the street, and the airplanes, the defence forces, are going to collapse, and the Social Security is going to be shut off. Therefore you got to vote for this bill.” It’s a form of manipulation unlike any one should ever put up with.
Congressman Bob McEwen:
It is blackmail.
Congressman Bob McEwen:
And so there’s two approaches to that. Number one is that’s what happened to Donald Trump last year. That’s what Ryan and McConnell did to him. And what did he say? He said, “Don’t you do this again. Never again. Don’t send me a bill like this and I’m not going to sign a bill like this.” That’s where many of us come in, the Council for National Policy is holding a summit. On May 17th we’re going to have over 100 conservative organizations and we’re going to have a resolution in which we want members of Congress to sign and agree to that does this. That is you don’t go home in the summer until you’ve appropriated the money for the budget.
Congressman Bob McEwen:
Now why is that? Fourth of July everybody takes off for two weeks of the Fourth of July. So, you come back the last two weeks of July and then you recess during the month of August. Congress always recesses during August – especially during an election year. Well, the first week of September is Labor Day. And so that means that once they’ve left in July they won’t be back until the middle of September. What”d I just say? The fiscal year starts on October 1st.
So, that means you’re going to get there, you’re going to have two weeks, and they only work three days a week. So, you only have six days in September to pass the entire budget for all of America or the world is going to fall apart, we”re going to fall off a cliff, and the cows won’t give milk, and the sky will fall.
Therefore, what we are proposing is to say to Congress, “Don’t you play this game. Refuse to go home in August until the leaders, that’s Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, until they bring the budget. And you work on that budget in August and through September. You write the budget the way it’s supposed to be so that by October 1st you can give a bill to the president that has been worked out, and people have agreed to, and people have seen it. Not this last 24 hour stuff, throw it in your face you sign it or the world falls apart.
There are two proposals. Number one – clean up the last year”s because look at this– Rick, this thing just passed three weeks ago. And what was it? It was the budget for last October.
Congressman Bob McEwen:
We’ve been passing continuing resolutions every couple to three weeks now. They’ve just finished last year’s work. Now don’t pull this stunt again. And we’re going to say that this year don’t take a vacation until you do your work.
And this conference that you’re going to have then those organizations can go home and put the pressure on their congressmen to say, “Hey, you’ve got to do this. The only way we’re going to get this thing in check.”
Congressman Bob McEwen:
That’s simply the truth. Congress will always do what’s in its best interest. Therefore we have to make it in its best interest to not pull this stunt again.
The Last Time We Passed a Budget on Time
The last time we passed a budget on time Newt Gingrich was speaker. And since then we’ve had lesser lights and there’s just been a lack of leadership.
Congressman Bob McEwen:
So that we come up against a tail end. I remember what Paul Ryan said, “Well, the Congress operates better under a deadline.” And I responded, “Well, that’s just like the kid that comes running out to the bus every morning with his pants around his knees and grabbing a sandwich, and his hair all bobbled. And as he”s getting on the bus, “Well, Â he operates better under a deadline.”” Why don’t you get the kid up an hour early? Why don’t you get him dressed and fed properly? So, it comes down to that’s what parents are supposed to do. So, the idea that Congress operates best under a deadline. You’re the leader you’re supposed to do it on time. This isn’t that complicated. It happens at every city council and every state legislature in America.
Yeah, yeah, no doubt. Last thing before I let you go, Congressman, you mentioned the line item veto. President Reagan often talked about how important it would be to get that. The Supreme Court ultimately said, “No, it’s unconstitutional.” Which, where they drew that up I have no idea. They came up with some rationale. Is there any effort right now to still push for that or try to get that done? And if so, how?
What Would it Take?
Congressman Bob McEwen:
It would take leadership by the president. I think if the president were to force Congress they would cooperate and do it. It”s just a matter of driving. Remember Reagan didn’t have a Republican Congress. He had to work with Tip O’Neill and those fellows that were out to sink him at every opportunity. This president has a Congress that theoretically is supposed to be on his side. If he were to drive the issue I think that a great deal of good could be done.
Yeah. That”d be great. Congressman, always good to have you. Thank you so much for your time today. Look forward to next time.
Congressman Bob McEwen:
Thank you brother. Anytime. All the best.
That’s Congressman Bob McEwen. Stay with us. We”ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.
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Putting Pressure on Congress
We’re back on WallBuilders Live. Thanks to Congressman Bob McEwen joining us once more. And just like Tim said he would he explains it in a way that we can understand it. And it helps to come from that perspective of somebody who’s been there, seen it, done it, and still keeping an eye on things. His work there at Council for National Policy, he’s watching these things. And I love the fact that they’re going to have this conference where they’re going to put the pressure on Congress to do these other positive things as well.
And by the way, I want to go back just for a second. For those who heard the program a couple of weeks ago, let me just tell you what impound where come from and why it was used for so long. Because when you think of a pound, like today it used to be called a dog pound, now we call them dog shelters. But dog pound, it’s an enclosure, it’s where you put and confine something. And so the word “impound” in Webster’s 1828 dictionary just means to shut something in, to confine it, to put it in a fence somehow.
And so the term impoundment, when it was used presidentially, was, “We”re going to take these funds and just kind of enclose them. We”re going to kind of put some fences around them, we”re going to box them in.” And so impoundment meant that even though Congress appropriated a million dollars for me to do– as Tom Coburn pointed out and crazy things Congress did, we appropriated a million dollars to study the sex life of snails. The president could say, “Well, I’m not going to spend ten cents on that.” And so that would be an impoundment. He”d put that money in an enclosure and set it aside and is not going to use it for that.
So, as Bob was talking about this it’s interesting that he was taking through and sometimes they now call it the process of rescission. But he said it’s really a two step process and then he described it as really kind of a three step process. Because you get authorized in the money that appropriated the money and then budgeting the money.
“Crazy” and “Federal Government” Become Synonyms
So, instead of doing it like the states do it the feds have made it really really complicated thing. And since back in the time of Nixon they’ve even taken away the power of the president not to spend the money. They’re essentially saying, “Hey, you have to spend the money that we send you. You cannot not spend the money.” Which is a crazy way to run things. Which I guess crazy and federal government become synonyms way too often now.
But I just didn’t realize that the process had become that complicated for Congress to be able to not spend money. And just to kind of– like they’ve defaulted to spending rather than not spending it.
Yeah, and one of the points you just made I think is so significant. When we did the program, I don’t know a couple weeks ago whenever it was, we talked about the fact that for a lot of these government agencies when you look at their budget, whatever money they don’t spend is taken out of their budget for next year. So, we are incentivizing them to spend all the money they have whether they need it or not, whether it’s wasteful or not.
And this is where you’re talking about the president is told that, “No, no, no, you can’t not spend money. You can’t have a savings account, you can’t be frugal with this, you can’t go to Ross or T.J. Maxx. You have to go to whatever the expensive store is and you have to spend all this money.” And so we’re limiting the president to even being able to save money which is so counterintuitive to how every one of us would run our budget in our family. We’d say, “No, wait a second. If we can save money, if we don’t have to spend this money, let’s not spend the money.”
Whether You Like It or Not
But now we’re even saying you have to spend money whether you need it or not, whether you want to or not. But this is where, as you mentioned, Bob kind of pointed out this is where actually the president should be able to say, “I’m not spending anything on that. I’m not going to allocate the funds. Even though you’ve given me the money, I’m not going to spend it on a provision that I think we shouldn’t do.”
And I thought what Bob also pointed out was significant – that they shouldn’t be taking these crazy recesses at a time when we ought to be passing the budget. How in the world did we just passed the budget for last year? We’ve already passed last year. It’s a little late for that budget now. This is something significant his organization is doing saying, “Let’s make sure Congress stays here. They don’t go home until they do their job and pass the budget.” What a novel concept that they would actually do what they’re supposed to do and not be able to just keep fluffing these things along.
And I think it’s significant for Americans to get an understanding of this so we can get behind and say, “Yeah, let’s have Congress stay, pass a budget, and then go home. I thought that was a really good point he made.”
Hey guys, we”ve got to take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Stay with us. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.
Leadership Training Program
Hey, friends! We’ve got a great program to share with you today. It”s the WallBuilders Leadership Training Program and it’s an opportunity for 18 to 25 year olds to come spend two weeks diving into the original documents we’re always talking about here on WallBuilders Live.
Tim, you’ve already been doing this a couple of summers and seen the results of young people coming to this program. We’re going to see more of them coming this year.
Yeah, Rick, it”s something that”s been cool to see the transformation with young people coming in. The emphasis, for us, largely is a pursuit of truth. We have a culture that doesn’t know what truth is. We don’t know what biblical truth is, or constitutional truth, or the American heritage that we have. And so we really dive into original documents and say, “Well, what did they actually write? What did they actually do? Not just what did somebody say, what is actually true, and the truth is what’s transformational.
Yeah, guys. This really is a remarkable opportunity. And for those who want to spend time with us and spend time in the original documents, this is a great program. So, if you’re from 18 to 25, or you know someone who’s 18 to 25, send them to sign up for one of our three sessions this summer at WallBuilders.com/leadershiptraining.
Moment From American History
This is Tim Barton from WallBuilders with another moment in American history. America is a special and unique nation. The average length for a constitution in other countries is only 17 years. But we’ve had ours for over two centuries. Our 4 percent of the world’s population produces 24 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and every year we produce more inventions and technology than the other 96 percent of the world combined.
In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville of France came to America, traveled the country, and in his famous book, “Democracy in America” reported, Â “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional. It may be believed that no Democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”
This is the origin of the phrase “American exceptionalism” and affirms that America is unique because of the distinctive ideas on which we’ve been based. Including in inalienable rights, individuals, and limited government, and the importance of religion, and morality. For more information about American exceptionalism go to WallBuilders.com.
The Senate Has Not Done a Budget in How Long?!
Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us on WallBuilders Live. Thanks to Congressman Bob McEwen for joining us earlier in the program and helping to educate us on this big term that Tim and I had no idea what it meant, but this impoundment tool. And, Tim, as you were saying, here’s a tool that if used this could have a very, very positive effect. It sounds like Congressman McEwen thinks there’s a real likelihood this is actually going to happen.
And also force them, as you were saying Tim, stay at work and get your job done before you go home. So, maybe the pressure put on by these various organizations on the congressmen will actually get our budgeting done for the first time in years.
Well, it would make a lot of sense that they actually do the job that they were hired to do, that they were sent there to do. And one of the things that we’ve talked about on the program before is how the House and the Senate, every year they’re supposed to do these budgets. And, dad, how long has it been since the Senate has actually done a budget?
The Senate has not done a budget in ten years. They have not gone through what the federal law requires. The House has, but the Senate has not done it in 10 years. Which is why they end up with these massive omnibus bills of 1.3 trillion in a single bill. That’s crazy!
Which is, as frustrated as we get with the House and rightfully so, as frustrated as we are with our congressmen, the Senate gets a pass in a lot of regards. And the Senate ought to be the one getting the majority of the beating on this. The Senate has done a terrible job in response to their duty, what they were elected for. But, again, this is where it would make total sense to say, “Hey, guys, nobody’s taking a break until you get your job done.” It’s like telling the kid, “Hey you don’t get dinner until your room is cleaned.” Well, that’s basic parenting, right, this is very normal. You do not get the reward, you do not get the benefit, until you do what you were supposed to do.
And it makes so much sense for Congress to do this, for the Senate to do this. And absolutely, Rick, as you were saying, yeah, we ought to be encouraging, supporting, what Bob is doing with his organization bringing these conservative groups together. That we would put some pressure on the Congress to do their job. Don’t take these long breaks and recesses.
Let”s Get it Done Early
And then all of a sudden, as Bob explained, you have this kid running out to the bus to try to make it, and then he’s pulling his pants up, and he’s getting dressed, and he’s skipping breakfast. No, no, no, wake him up an hour earlier, get him ready for what’s going on. And then we’re not having to scramble, we’re having to race. Let’s actually be a little forward thinking, proactive in this, and let’s get the job done before it’s crunch time, so that we’re not stressing and trying to pull this all nighter like most of us did in college. Let’s get it done early.
And part of what this is is really kind of a two step process. Because impoundment is cleaning up last year’s mess, it’s taking that 1.3 trillion to get rid of all the junk out of it. And then go forward, and stay in town, and do the budget the way you’re supposed to the federal law requires.
And by the way, I would love to see a line item veto. He mentioned the states do that and I looked it up real quick. Forty four states allow their governors to have the power of vetoing those aspects of the budget that they don’t think should have money spent on it.
So, this takes care so much what used to be called earmarks and that appropriation of money for silly things. The president can look at that and say, “No way. We’re not doing that.” Only six states do not do that. That’s Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont. If you’re in those six states you might think about contacting your legislators and saying, “Hey, we need more checks and balances over even our spending here in this state.”
But Bob’s, they”re right on track with the plan. I hope that they and we will join with them to really lean on members of Congress to stay in town, get this thing done, let’s get over these shutdowns where we’re being forced into omnibus spending. Let’s go back to what the law says and actually follow it and let’s get this country under control.
Budget Tool That Cuts Back Crazy Expenditures From Omnibus Bill
We sure appreciate Congressman Bob McEwen being with us today. We appreciate you listening. And we especially appreciate those of you that have been signing up to join us to come alongside us to help spread the word that we’re bringing through WallBuilders Live. You can be one of those folks by going to WallBuilders.com. You can make a one time contribution to the radio program. We”re listener supported, it”s the way we’re able to do this.
So you can make a one time contribution or you can do a monthly. Be a partner of ours over the next year or two in helping to spread this word. It”s what’s going to save our country. It”s by educating, equipping, and inspiring citizens across this country to get involved and do their part. Thanks for doing your part. Thanks for listening today to WallBuilders Live.
I listen every morning with my first cup of joe. The program always gives me interesting factoids to share at work. Thanks for doing God’s work so faithfully. I saw David years ago at Horizon in San Diego. You’re all great great great!!!!!
Love Bob McEwen, He is one of my favorite guests on your program!