Spending bill tests discipline of both parties
The Omnibus spending measure introduced today by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has outraged Senate and House Republicans -- threatening not only government funding, but the rest of the Senate's lame duck agenda.
What's in the bill? Republican Senate aides sent over some highlights by e-mail:
The recently released omnibus appropriations measure - which would spend more than $1.25 trillion in this fiscal year - includes $1,009,677,000 in funding to implement Democrats' unpopular health care law. That funding includes:
An increase of more than $80.7 million in the Department of Health and Human Services' Departmental Management account, to enforce the new insurance mandates and regulations created in the law. This $80 million "plus-up" is also significantly higher than the $44.9 million increase proposed in Democrats' year-long CR. (Provision found on page 1015 of the legislation.)
An increase of over $175.9 million in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Program Management account, to implement the massive Medicaid expansion and cuts to Medicare Advantage. (Provision found on pages 1000-1001 of the legislation.)
Spending of $750 million from the Prevention and Public Health "slush fund" created in the law. Among the programs receiving "slush fund" dollars are the new community transformation grant programs, which "could provide billions of dollars for walking paths, streetlights, jungle gyms, and even farmers' markets," provisions that have caused controversy. (Provisions found on pages 983, 988-89, 998, and 999 of the legislation.)
Funding of $3 million for the National Health Care Workforce Commission created in the law, just one of the 159 boards, bureaucracies, and programs created by the majority's government takeover of health care. (Provision found on page 1077 of the legislation.)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell unloaded on the substance of the bill as well as the process. Roll Call reports (subscription required):
McConnell called the measure by Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) "completely and totally inappropriate.... I'm going to vote against things that could arguably benefit my state."
McConnell likened the nearly 2,000-page bill -- and its introduction so close to Christmas -- to last year's health care debate, when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had a "2,700-page bill that no one had seen and [was] trying to jam it through the Senate," he said.
"The full Senate has had no input in this bill whatsoever," he added. "This is exactly what the American people said Nov. 2 they didn't want us to do."
Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) denounced the bill. DeMint tweeted, "Ignoring the Nov. elections, Democrats just introduced a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill stuffed with thousands of earmarks." Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) also said he was a no. The omnibus spending bill can be filibustered under Senate rules, and a senior Republican advisor vowed: "We can and will filibuster" the bill. He continued, "Reid will have to file cloture on a 2,000-page bill."
Senate Republicans speculated about how many of the 23 Democrats on the 2012 ballot, many from red states, would want to go on record voting for a business-as-usual, pork-filled spending bill.
Over on the House side, Republicans were nonplussed. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R.-Va.) tweeted, "Democrats just don't get it: introduce pork-filled, 2,000 page earmark-laden spending bill." A senior House aide was taken aback and uncertain certain Blue Dogs would vote for the bill. He e-mailed:
It really is stunning, isn't it? If they can get it through the Senate, I suspect they can pass it. BUT, take a look at the Continuing Resolution vote from last week. They barely passed it in the House. Not because of spending (though there was A LOT of extraneous spending in it) but because of the inclusion of food safety legislation, which all the [members from agricultural states] hate. Guess what is in the omnibus bill? Food safety is back for a ride. So, the combo of omnibus pork with food safety? Maybe not.
And soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner issued a press release blasting the bill:
"If President Obama is truly serious about ending earmarks, he should oppose Senate Democrats' pork-laden omnibus spending bill and announce he will veto it if necessary. This bill represents exactly what the American people have rejected: more spending, more earmarks, and more big government. Republicans strongly oppose this last-ditch spending spree, a smack in the face to taxpayers at a time when we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. Senate Democrats even go so far as to plow more than $1 billion into implementing ObamaCare, despite a growing national revolt against this job-killing health care law. . . .Senate Democrats should stand down so we can get to work on cleaning up Washington's fiscal mess."
So will the White House, which is straining to get to the political center, go along with this? Potentially putting its newly minted moderate image, repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," and ratification of the START Treaty at risk? And will Democrats who survived the tsunami of 2010 really want to continue with the spend-a-thon that enraged voters? Stay tuned.
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