Unicorns.

Leprechauns.

Fiscal conservatives.

All of these are figments of the imagination. But fiscal conservatives continue to haunt the darkened hallways of American politics, every so often materializing to shout “BOO!” at the party in power, only to recede into the shadows as soon as they are called upon to actually govern. How else to explain the sheer cowardice of a Republican Party that just passed a massive budget increase, then cheered it as the very model of a modern budget victory?

ABC News breaks down the bill:

The two-year budget deal would lift caps on defense and non-defense spending by $300 billion over two years. It also includes: $6 billion to fight the opioid crisis; $5.8 billion for child care development block grants;$4 billion for veterans medical facilities; $2 billion for medical research; $20 billion to augment existing infrastructure programs; and $4 billion for college affordability. The measure would extend government funding at current levels until March 23 to allow lawmakers to finalize details on the spending in a separate measure.

As part of the deal, lawmakers would also raise the nation's debt limit into 2019, avoiding the risk of a potential default.

Overall, the new spending bill returns us to the bad old Obama days of trillion-dollar deficits.

Jazz Shaw at HotAir rightly fulminates over this betrayal by GOP higher-ups:

I hope all of you who were fighting for fiscal conservative principles realize what this means, not just today, but in the long run. You can forget about ever wagging your fingers at the Democrats on spending from here on out. That ship has sailed. The next time the GOP loses control of Congress and the White House (and that day is coming sooner or later, believe me), don’t bother yelling about what they’re going to do to the national debt. That particular tool is gone from our arsenal. The GOP has finally been exposed as a group of limacine charlatans who talk a good game on fiscal probity but are unable to walk the walk.

All those fiscal conservatives of days past — Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) — voted for the new budget. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) attempted to block the bill by refusing to give the go-ahead to a vote on it sans an amendment process, complaining, “Every one of these Republicans complained about President Obama’s deficits.” But he was shut down. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) slammed the process as well:

The process matters. The fact is we will not always come to an agreement as to how much we ought to spend or what to spend it on. But I think we should be able to agree that the American people deserve a process that is open, transparent, and can be observed by the American people.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) lashed out at Paul for his temerity: “I know he wants to make a point. He has that right. I agree with many of his concerns about deficits and debt. But we are in an emergency situation.”

There’s a problem with this logic: it’s always an emergency situation. If we can’t handle four hours of a government shutdown in order to leverage cuts, we’re never going to cut anything — until it’s too late to prevent European-style austerity measures.

Worse, the new spending deal doesn’t actually count as a budget, as the editors at National Review point out:

A two-year spending deal means Republicans probably won’t go to the trouble of passing a formal budget for 2019. That would mean no chance for a so-called reconciliation process that could allow them to enact meaningful legislation with only 50 votes in the Senate.

So not only are Republicans blowing out spending, they’re unlikely to be able to pass any new legislation with 51 votes in the Senate.

Well done, GOP.

But the truth is that the Republicans are bowing to the inconsistency of the American people, who routinely tell pollsters they want government cut, but never want to actually cut government programs, and get angry when legislators shut down the government in order to try to do so. So long as the American people demand that their lawmakers lie to them, their lawmakers will continue to do so.

And Republicans are just politicians like any others, pretending fiscal conservatism when convenient, and abandoning it when it means educating voters rather than pandering to them.