The Corner

The Omnibus Passes

The Senate closed the books on fiscal 2009 appropriations yesterday by clearing the $410 billion omnibus spending package. Oblivious to the need for fiscal discipline, the legislation provides more than $31 billion, or 8 percent, more than the total discretionary funding in the fiscal 2008 versions of the nine bills in the package. The spending figure is $19 billion more than Pres. George W. Bush requested for the fiscal 2009 bills. It is also packed with more than 8,000 earmarks. And the bill makes several changes in policy that no doubt would have sparked a veto fight with Bush, such as ending a school-voucher program for the District of Columbia unless it is reauthorized by Congress and the District government.

According to Congressional Quarterly:

Eight Republicans joined all but three Democrats to invoke cloture. The Republicans were Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Democrats Evan Bayh of Indiana, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Claire McCaskill of Missouri opposed cloture.

The end of the debate was closely linked the defeat of an amendment sponsored by David Vitter that would have repealed a law that gives lawmakers an automatic pay raise each year. For several days, it was rightfully viewed as the one of the biggest threats to Democrats’ plans to clear the spending package by the end of the day yesterday.

Again according to CQ:

In the vote to table Vitter’s amendment, five Republicans — Cochran, Wicker, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Mel Martinez of Florida — joined the majority of Democrats in voting to kill the measure. Ten Democrats switched sides to vote with Republicans, many of them casting a “no” vote only after it became clear their party had the votes to block the amendment. The Democrats voting “no” were Bayh, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, Feingold, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, McCaskill, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Jon Tester of Montana, Jim Webb of Virginia and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Oh and by the way, the omnibus package also includes a healthy increase for Congress’s own budget. It provides $4.4 billion for the legislative branch, an increase of about eleven percent from last year’s level.

— Veronique de Rugy is an economist at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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