The Corner

Signs from the Lame Duck Are Getting Even Worse

Sign me up as agreeing with Michael Needham’s post about what we can learn from this lame-duck session. I am afraid that the cromnibus bill is the latest sign that Republican leadership isn’t actually on board with shrinking the size and scope of government and fighting for free-market principles. Needham writes:

Indeed, it’s tough to look at over four years of tactical disagreements and not conclude there is a difference in desired destination. . . .

Maybe then, like now, House GOP leadership was being tactically overly cautious. Another option is that — in both 2013 and now in this lame-duck session — the GOP leadership’s objective is to make the trains run on time for a big-business donor community frustrated that the gravy train runs marginally slower than it used to and that the GOP’s conservative base has different objectives: reining in a lawless president, cutting unsustainable spending, providing opportunity for struggling working Americans, and attacking the unfair cronyism of Washington, D.C.

If there are, indeed, different objectives being sought by the leadership and their base, nobody should be surprised that we keep having these disagreements over tactics.

Republican leadership’s refusal to kill programs like the Ex-Im Bank or farm subsidies when they had a chance, their resurrections of crony tax breaks (including roughly $9 billion of green-energy ones), the likelihood that they’re still going to reauthorize the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (“TRIA”) during the lame duck, the fact that the omnibus includes a one-year reauthorization of the Overseas Private Investment Corp, a federal agency that subsidizes wealthy U.S. companies investing in foreign countries . . . they’re all the signs I need that this Republican Congress is getting ready for business as usual.

The bad news began when they decided to go with an omnibus bill (that Democrats like, or were supposed to like), rather than a long-term CR, and to rush ahead with it before citizens and members have any time to read the thing – in spite of promises by Speaker Boehner that he wouldn’t do that. The signs all point to massive disappointments to come for those of us who believe in small government. Well, unless you consider the renewed eligibility of white potatoes under the WIC program to be the kind of victory conservatives have been waiting for.

An omnibus bill always guarantees a spending bill bloated with goodies. Peter Suderman has a short list:

Naturally, with so much money in play, the bloated bill is packed full of goodies—or, as Sen. John McCain put it, it’s “jammed full of shit.” You can see for yourself by perusing the Senate Appropriations Committee summary: $25 million for “school meal equipment grants,” $1.7 billion in “water and waste loans and grants,” a $37 million increase in funding for the Food and Drug Administration, $6.1 billion in ownership and operating loans to farmers, $871 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection service (an increase of $49 million), an $81 million increase in FBI salaries and a $21 million pay bump at the Drug Enforcement Agency, $7 million in new anti-heroin funding, $3.2 billion to improve federal weather prediction, $141 million for a “next generation computing” program at the Department of Energy, a $53 million bump—up to $2.61 billion—for the National Park Service. 

No wonder Harry Reid sees the cromnibus as a victory. The bill includes serious crony kickbacks that benefit him and his biggest supporters:

The omnibus spending bill from House Speaker John Boehner and Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) contains a blatant handout to the travel—specifically casino—industry, something that benefits outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

On page 217, Title VI of the bill, is the “Travel Promotion, Enhancement and Modernization Act of 2014.” It reauthorizes, extends, and changes the “Travel Promotion Act of 2009”—which, as Breitbart News has previously reported, is a nothing more than a kickback to Reid and his casino pals in Las Vegas. 

This omnibus spending bill—which is supposed to be just an Appropriations bill, not dealing with reauthorizations like this—reauthorizes the Travel Promotion Act program for five extra years through 2020. It was supposed to sunset and end in 2015, and probably would have under a Republican-controlled Congress. Yet since Boehner is working to cut this deal with the Democrats in the lame duck post-election session of Congress rather than doing a clean Continuing Resolution (CR) when the new GOP Senate takes over, he included it in this bill. . . .

This provision in the omnibus, however, is so good for Reid and his close donors and friends that he’s publicly touted it many times. 

While thinking of what this cromnibus and the last four years mean for the next two, I’m reminded of what the Club for Growth’s president Chris Chocola said during a recent debate at AEI about the state of the Republican party:

What good is a majority if you aren’t going to use it? What good is being part of a team, if the team is the problem?

It’s hard not to agree, or even go further: Republicans need to remember that that last time they misused their majority, it had serious consequences — we got the Obama years. They’d be quite wrong to think that voters will keep them in the majority if they’re just going to maintain the status quo.

 

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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