Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fight the Omnibus

Mitch McConnell has come up with a great way to highlight the differences between the parties. While Harry Reid attempts to rush through his mega-omnibus bill, McConnell has proposed a one-page continuing resolution to keep the government funded at current levels.

The WSJ explains
why this omnibus is such an abomination.
Defenders argue that the bill is restrained because it freezes overall spending for federal agencies at 2010 levels. But 2010 was an inflated budget with a $1.3 trillion deficit. Paul Ryan, soon to be House Budget Chairman, notes that nondefense discretionary spending rose 24% over those two years. Add stimulus funding and federal agency spending soared to $796 billion in 2010 from $434 billion, an 84% spending increase. (See nearby table.) Republicans have promised to return to 2008 spending levels, and the omnibus will make that much harder.

Then there are the pork and policy riders, such as a food safety bill with new authority for the Food and Drug Administration. The bill's 6,630 earmarks will cost more than $8.1 billion, according to Citizens Against Government Waste. While that's fewer than in 2009, what happened to the earmark ban promised by Republicans and supported by President Obama?

The late John Murtha of Pennsylvania is so powerful he's still getting pork from his grave: $10 million for the John Murtha Foundation. Ted Kennedy also scored a legacy earmark. The omnibus includes $8 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute secured by Congressman Ed Markey (D., Mass.). Thad Cochran of Mississippi, one of the GOP Senators who may vote for the bill, secured $6 million for the Mississippi Polymer Institute at the University of Southern Mississippi.
And here is the explanation of why the Democrats are pushing for this.
The bill makes a special effort to pad spending for programs likely to be targeted by Republicans next year, so any future cuts will occur off a larger baseline. That includes $36 million more for public broadcasting, $1.5 billion for high-speed rail projects that many states say they can't afford, and $3 billion for green energy pork.

Republicans should be especially upset with the $1.1 billion to implement phase one of ObamaCare. This gives the Administration's bureaucracy a running start and means that Republicans will have to pass new legislation to rescind the funding—which Mr. Obama will veto. Why would Republicans vote for a bill that makes it harder for them to achieve one of their main political goals?
As Guy Benson reminds us, President Obama has spoken out against earmarking and expressed his regrets for having had to sign previous bills larded with earmarks. But that isn't stopping him, as Jake Tapper reports, from throwing his support behind a bill that violates the principles he supposedly believes in. He's hiding behind security concerns.
The Obama administration today told Congress to pass an omnibus spending bill containing $8 billion in earmark projects, even though just a few days ago the president said one of the lessons he learned from the 2010 midterm elections was to take more seriously the public’s disapproval of – and his pledge to oppose -- earmarks.

“We wish there were no earmarks and are troubled with their presence” in the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, an administration source told ABC News. “But Secretary Gates has told the President that the alternative bill” – a continuing resolution that for one year funds the government, which is due to run out of cash at the end of the week – “doesn't have the funding critical for several national security priorities.”
So in order to get the security spending he says we need, he's willing to sign on to billions in other spending. He didn't seem too concerned about that security spending while the Democrats were postponing funding next year's budget throughout the entire year and stalling things until after the election.

Meanwhile, some Republican old bulls who haven't learned the lesson of the past year have padded the omnibus with their own earmarks and are said to be supporting the bill. We'll see if the Democrats up for election in 2012 are willing to pal up with these guys and Daniel Inouye and Harry Reid to support the omnibus. It's discouraging that these Republicans would throw their support behind this mammoth bill instead of standing against it.

UPDATE: Ah, sweet victory. Reuters is reporting that Harry Reid is dropping his insidious omnibus bill and will pass a continuing resolution to keep funding the government at the current levels. I guess he realized that he didn't have hte votes and his members were probably begging him not to make them vote for this stinker.