Senator Rand Paul gave a powerful speech on the Senate floor today urging Congress to make use of one of its most fundamental powers, the power of the purse. Conservatives have been frustrated with GOP leadership over the last five years. Despite a wave election in 2010 that brought Republicans to power in the House and a 2014 election that gave them the majority in the Senate, progress on reigning in government spending has been mild to say the least.
Despite Republican frustrations at these GOP failures causing Speaker John Boehner to retire, the Senate today passed a continuing resolution that preserves the status quo of current spending. Many Conservatives wanted to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of a series of horrific videos in which Planned Parenthood staff casually discuss the harvest and sale of baby parts, with one employee even going so far as to joke about using the money to buy a Lamborghini. Conservatives have previously wanted to use the budget process to defund ObamaCare.
Mainstream media sources often claim that Republicans need 60 votes to defund anything and that failing to include objectionable spending in the budget amounts to “Republicans shutting down government” since Democrats won’t vote on those bills. Rand Paul turned that idea on its head:
“All spending is set to expire automatically. This is the perfect time to turn the tables. To tell the other side that they will need 60 votes to affirmatively spend any money,” the Senator explained.
On the mechanics of it, Paul is completely right. Republicans control the Senate, the budgeting committees, and the agenda. It takes 60 votes to pass legislation and overcome a filibuster, not to fail to pass legislation. In other words, if Democrats want to spend money on the nation’s largest abortion provider, it is the Democrats who need to find 60 votes to do so. If they filibuster Republican budgets because they want to spend more money on abortion and ObamaCare, they will have to explain why they are shutting down the government to fund those programs.
Rand Paul also made several points about the power of Congress generally and the need to use the power of the purse to reassert the role of the legislature. The whole video is worth a watch: you can find it here.