#CROmnibus: Morphing Boehner Into Pelosi

We've been sold out, AGAIN!

In a statement after voting for the $1.1 Trillion “CROmnibus” bill CongressmanRep. Andy Barr (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Andy Barr59%House Republican Average39See Full Scorecard59%(R-KY6) issued the following statement,

While I’m disappointed that the Senate continues to block legislation I voted for last week that would have nullified the President’s Executive Order on immigration, this bill does successfully build upon the modest progress made in last year’s Bipartisan Budget Agreement to further reduce spending, and it delivers on a number of important priorities for the people of Kentucky. The short-term nature of the portion of the bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security will allow the next Congress to effectively respond to the President’s illegal immigration actions, once Republicans take control of the Senate.”

The bill includes full Appropriations legislation and funding for 11 of the 12 annual Appropriations bills through the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2015. The 12th bill, which funds the Department of Homeland Security, is also included in the legislation, but is funded under a temporary “Continuing Resolution” mechanism that expires on February 27, 2015.

Key Kentucky Priorities

Agriculture:

  • Cuts funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and rejects efforts to expand EPA regulatory programs.
  • Prevents Army Corps from regulating farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act.
  • Provides increased funding for USDA Rural Development programs critical to central and eastern Kentucky.
  • Provides flexibility for Kentucky schools facing hardships in meeting one-size-fits-all federal nutrition guidelines mandates that have increased costs for school districts.

Blue Grass Army Depot:

  • Provides full funding to complete construction of the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) at the Blue Grass Army Depot.
  • Provides full funding to Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternative Program (ACWA) to complete the demilitarization at the Blue Grass Army Depot.
  • Provides funds to begin construction on a new consolidated shipping center that will create jobs and save money.

Energy:

  • Prohibits funding for the Obama Administration’s efforts to block the export of coal.
  • Strategically targets funds to ensure balanced investment into fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy to improve our nation’s energy independence and fight high-energy prices.
  • Increases oversight of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to break the deadlock in the coal permitting process and prohibits a redefinition of “fill material” within the Clean Water Act that would effectively ban Appalachian coal mining.

Veterans:

  • Increases funding to meet our obligations to our nation’s veterans.
  • Increased funding will help improve the efficiency and interoperability of the combined Department of Defense (DoD)/Veteran Affairs (VA) medical records system, and reduce the claims backlog at the VA.

Violence Against Women Act:

  • Increases funding for the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Increases transitional housing assistance grants for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, or sexual assault

National Security:

  • Provides funding for our nation’s security, military readiness, and resources for our troops at home and abroad.
  • Funds important Department of Defense programs and projects, a pay raise for our troops, and the advancement of our military operations to protect the nation from current and future threats.
  • Continues funding for Military Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs, and provides an additional $25 million to continue the expansion of the Sexual Assault Victims’ Counsel program to all the military services.
  • Fully funds critical FAA air traffic control and aviation safety operations, while reducing overall department funding.

Other:

  • Provides no new funding for Obamacare, and holds the line on funding for the IRS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – the primary agencies responsible for the implementation of Obamacare.

  • Maintains all existing pro-life policy and funding provisions that have been carried in Appropriations legislation in previous years.

The legislation voted on last week was a symbolic bill that had no chance of going anywhere and everyone who voted for it knew that. The only purpose of it was to allow the congressional members who went against the wishes of their constituents and their campaign promises to say they voted to stop the president’s EO on amnesty.

Fast forward to the monstrosity budget bill known as CROmnibus.

The congressional members who voted for the CROmnibus were quick to send out talking points in an attempt to cover themselves after constituents took to social media in outrage.

Josh Withrow of FreedomWorks pointed out that a vote for this massive, unread monstrosity of a bill was yet another attack on our privacy. Josh wrote,

Even in the Republican-controlled House, limited-government conservatives in particular were excluded from most of the conversation, since they might add something controversial to the bill like “the President should follow the law”.

One of the casualties of this opaque establishmentarian process was the massively bi-partisan amendment to Department of Defense appropriations by Reps. Massie/Amash/Holt/Lofgren/etc. to rein in unlimited NSA spying. The amendment passed by an overwhelming 293-123 majority, yet it was stripped from the omnibus bill with no chance for its supporters to protest. A veto-proof majority of Congress, overruled by the powerful few.

Heritage Action pointed out the following items that, had these representatives read the bill, are obvious some of their talking points are skirting key details.

From Heritage:

Some have suggested the short-term funding for DHS will provide conservatives another opportunity to block President Obama’s actions in early 2015, but that approach is problematic because: 1) it forces House Republicans, who are virtually unanimous in their opposition to the President’s actions, to cast an initial vote to fund that lawless action; 2) it would occur 100 days after the President’s announcement, meaning the program is likely to be up and running; 3) it removes nearly all the pressure on President Obama and his partisan allies to choose between defending their lawless amnesty policies and funding all other areas of government; and 4) leading Republicans have refused to offer up a viable plan to stop the President’s executive amnesty in February.

In addition to funding President Obama’s amnesty with no strategy to stop it in 2015, the cromnibus makes use of $19 billion worth of changes in mandatory programs (CHIMPS) to make it appear as if it is staying below the Ryan-Murray discretionary budget caps. The bill also makes full use of the “disaster” and “emergency spending” loopholes, authorizing $5.7 billion in disaster spending (only $321 million of which to actually be spent this fiscal year), and another $5.4 billion (only $1.5 billion to actually be spent this year) in emergency spending for Ebola response and preparedness.

There are also dozens of examples of funding increases that reflect liberal, big-government priorities: $456 million extra for federal weather forecasting, $636 million in new money for the Department of Energy, $250 million more than requested for the Environmental Protection Agency, $200 million more for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) than requested, $127 million more for Section 8 housing, $150 million more for the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), $35 million more for the Commodities Future Trading Commission, $42 million more for the legislative branch (i.e., Congress), $141 million more for mass transit, $500,000 for the Peace Corps and many more.

Furthermore, the spending bill includes a host of policy riders that conservatives find objectionable:

  • Many of the policy riders that conservatives were hoping for were left out as congressional Democrats flexed their muscles one last time. Riders blocking certain National Science Foundation climate research, prohibiting trade agreements regarding greenhouse gases, certain pro-gun riders and six riders on the aforementioned CFTC and SEC were all left behind in favor of liberal priorities.
  • Although the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers program was set to expire on December 31, 2014, the bill “fully funds” the program at Obama’s request through 2015.
  • Another provision reauthorizes the Brand USA program through 2020–a government-run public relations corporation ripe with waste, mismanagement and trademark DC cronyism.
  • In spite of countless conservative commitments to battle special interest dominion, this bill reauthorizes the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) until September 30th, 2015, adding $60 million in new funding. OPIC funding benefits a highly concentrated slew of highly profitable industries, like luxury hotel chains and oil and gas projects.
  • Not only is no attempt made to rein in the President’s amnesty actions, but the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is provided $14 million in funding to help with the English language skills training of unaccompanied alien children (UACs), once again devoting resources to easing the transition of undocumented immigrants while doing nothing to enforce the law.
  • $372 million is provided for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, even though last week’s defense authorization included funding for the same program. In typical big government fashion, PILT offers subsidies to counties suffocated by excessive federal dominance of land, rather than pursue an actual solution like returning that land to the states.
  • Roughly $575 million is authorized for International Family Planning/Population Control Activities–a continued affront to pro-family Americans who do not want their tax dollars commingled with such activities.
  • The spending bill includes a separate piece of legislation that authorizes a new Department of Commerce program intended to help manufacturing. As Heritage explains, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act authorizes “activities that the private sector can and already do perform,” and thus the legislation “is counterproductive and creates more government dependence than innovation and competition.”

While there are some positive elements of the colossal bill, including language that prevents a taxpayer bailout of insurance companies under Obamacare, they cannot overcome the totality of the bill’s aforementioned flaws. What’s more, many of the policy changes being touted by as conservative victories are half-measures at best and symbolic at worse:

  • The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins notes the bill is “missing a very crucial piece: the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA). That means Californians, who were hoping for some relief from their state’s order that all health care plans cover abortion, will leave 2014 somewhat empty-handed.”
  • The changes to Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) — making white potatoes available — are contingent on a review from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and USDA.
  • The First Lady’s school lunch nutrition standards remain mostly intact, though schools can ask the administration for flexibility if they “can demonstrate a hardship.”

Finally, the cromnibus process more closely resembles something from the Pelosi-run House than the promises embodied in the Republicans’ 2010 Pledge to America. Representatives are being asked to vote on the massive, 1,603-page bill will little time to read and understand it. In 2009, then-House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) chastised then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for not posting their half-trillion dollar omnibus online: “If Democratic leaders plan to schedule a vote on the half-trillion dollar omnibus spending bill next week, they should post the legislation online immediately so the American people have adequate time to read the measure and understand what is in it.”

There were news reports that the Capitol switchboard crashed with calls from people urging their representatives to vote against this deeply flawed piece of legislation. Just like the election in November, it is obvious some didn’t get the message.