Taxpayers received a welcome surprise when Majority Leader Harry Reid shelved a massive spending bill in the waning days of Congress.
One of the basic functions of Congress is to produce annual funding bills that keep the government operating. These bills, known as appropriations bills, fund the respective sectors of the federal government — for example, one bill funds the Justice Department, another funds the Interior Department, and so on.
But for the second year in a row, the Democrat-led Congress failed to approve a budget or any appropriations bills. As a result, the government has operated under a temporary measure known as a “continuing resolution.”
With Christmas approaching, the lame-duck Congress faced a dilemma: funding for the government would soon run out, and Congress, therefore, had to act quickly to approve a measure to ensure that the government would continue to operate.
The sensible thing to do would have been to pass a stop-gap measure that extends current levels of funding until next year, when the newly elected Congress returns and can dedicate the necessary time to draft and scrutinize individual appropriations bills.
Instead, Senate Democrats dropped a trillion dollar plus, pork-laden spending package that was written behind closed doors, and that no one had time to read or analyze. With the omnibus, good funding provisions are coupled together with bad ones, and legislators are forced into an “all or nothing” position. No amendments would have been authorized.
When bills — especially 2,000-page bills like the omnibus — are rushed to passage, details slip through the cracks and, therefore, bad policies and provisions become law.
The bill contained more than 6,700 earmarks totaling $8 billion. One example was $100,000 for an Edgar Allan Poe visitors center in New York.
The omnibus bill also contains $1 billion for the unpopular ObamaCare law that Americans said they didn’t want and that a majority now wants repealed.
Millions more will go to the implementation of the financial regulatory bill, including sizable expansions of the budgets of regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission.
While appropriations bill are supposed to avoid policy, this bill would have raised energy prices and destroyed U.S. energy jobs, by virtue of new policy for offshore drilling. For example, it raises fees for onshore and offshore oil and gas production on federal lands. These fees amount to a tax that will make domestic energy production more expensive to produce, especially for small businesses.
Voters made a very clear statement last month: They don’t like the wasteful spending, they didn’t want the health care bill, and they don’t want lawmakers rushing complex, hugely expensive bills that are written in secret through Congress without any time for their representatives to study them and have an opportunity to amend them.
Fortunately, Senate Republicans were united in opposition to the bill (the bill couldn’t pass without Republican support). Majority Leader Reid, seeing that the votes weren’t there, pulled the bill from consideration and instead brought up a continuing resolution that funds the government through the first few months of next year.
That’s a victory for taxpayers, and my hope is that, when the new Congress comes to the Capitol next year, we can consider a responsible spending plan that doesn’t include earmarks and doesn’t continue to swell the unsustainable deficit.