An Ominous Omnibus
By Matthew Vadum
A mammoth spending bill aimed at preventing a repeat of the last government shutdown is coming under heavy fire from conservative groups for green-lighting President Obama’s executive immigration amnesty and continuing to fund Obamacare.
Republicans in Congress are inexplicably rushing through a catch-all $1 trillion-plus spending bill to prevent the government from running out of money at midnight tonight. The measure, which would keep the government funded through the end of the federal fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2015), is being called a cromnibus, which is a portmanteau of CR, as in continuing resolution, and omnibus, as in omnibus legislation.
The measure contains hundreds of policy provisions including a new prohibition on the legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia and new funding to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Ebola virus in West Africa. It would continue funding two wildly unpopular Obama initiatives, Obamacare and President Obama’s extra-legal immigration amnesty. The Department of Homeland Security would be funded only for a few months, allowing lawmakers to delay a fight over amnesty until springtime.
“Importantly, the bill does nothing to block President Obama’s unilateral, unlawful actions which include granting quasi-legal status, work permits and Social Security numbers to those who are in the country illegally,” said Heritage Action for America spokesman Dan Holler.
“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken the Republicans all of 35 days to drop that ball in spectacularly disappointing fashion,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots said in a statement.
“Make no mistake, this bill DOES fund Obama’s executive amnesty, and so much more.”
The measure makes sure that illegal aliens benefiting from Obama’s amnesty receive Social Security benefits and spends almost $1 billion to help illegals integrate into communities across the country. It also blows apart the budgetary ceilings agreed upon by House Budget Committee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Senate Budget Committee chairman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
There is, of course, no reason for Republicans to pass in a frenzied rush an all-encompassing bill funding almost all of the federal government. They could easily draft a stopgap spending bill to carry them over to January when Republicans will control both chambers of Congress and have greater bargaining power in negotiations with President Obama.
But conservative critics say House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have ulterior motives. Using the boogeyman of an impending government shutdown to keep lawmakers in line, the GOP leadership has been generating a false sense of urgency in order to get the omnibus legislation through. Boehner and McConnell, they say, have no intention of repealing Obamacare, so they are kicking the can into 2015.
Most elected Republicans still seem blissfully unaware that the the last shutdown in October 2013 was an unmitigated public relations success for Republicans even though it might not have felt that way at the time. Setting aside the relentless media propaganda that falsely painted the shutdown as a massive Democratic tactical victory, the episode sent the unmistakable message that GOPers were champions of freedom of choice in health care.
The shutdown boosted GOP public approval numbers all the way through the election this month, helped to revive the fight against Obamacare as millions of Americans were having their health insurance policies abruptly canceled, and helped to set the stage for the Republicans’ historic trouncing of the Democrats in congressional elections. The shutdown was an extended, cost-free infomercial for the GOP that reminded Americans that Republicans were on their side on an issue that mattered to them. In other words, it derailed what had seemed like an unstoppable leftist narrative that the always-unpopular Obamacare was a done deal and that resistance to it was futile.
Those gun-shy Republicans who oppose a government shutdown at all costs are never quite able to explain why, if the shutdown was so bad for the GOP, Republicans are now on the march. On Nov. 4 the GOP flipped control of the 100-seat U.S. Senate, winning 54 seats. The House GOP increased its majority, winning at least 246 out of 435 seats.
Opposition to the spending measure has grown steadily since the bill was unveiled Tuesday night but Republican leadership in the House says it is confident it can get the bill passed.
Meanwhile, 10 grassroots conservative groups have signed a letter demanding that Boehner and McConnell be removed from their posts for collaborating with the president on amnestying 5 million illegal aliens.
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, said the pending bill betrays the values held by more than 70 percent of the people who cast ballots in the congressional elections last month.
“They’re mocking the public, and it’s a huge deception. We can’t allow that deception to prevail. What we need right now is, we need the phones ringing off the hook,” said Gheen. “Word in D.C. is Boehner is hell-bent on getting his plan through to help Obama with the budget, and American citizens out there now have less than 48 hours to respond and take action to change that.”
“Christmas has come early for the big spenders in Congress who have been experiencing long-term withdrawal from the earmark ban,” said Andy Roth, vice president of government affairs at the Club for Growth (a group that did not sign the letter). “This 1,603-page bill provides a ‘fix’ for these jonesing politicians who carry water for their special interest buddies.”
A final vote on the spending legislation could come today.
Members of organized labor have come out against the bill. Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa Jr. railed against the measure because it “will slash the pensions of thousands of retirees who worked years for a pension that they thought would provide them financial security in their retirement years. That promise is now busted.”
“To add insult to injury, this Omnibus bill compromises highway safety by rolling back Hours-of-Service regulations, allowing truck drivers to work more than 80 hours per week – twice the normal 40-hour work week,” Hoffa added.
Yesterday House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed reservations about the measure. “Once more, Republicans are working to stack the deck for the special interests against everyone else,” Pelosi said. She continued:
Buried in the more than 1,600 pages of the omnibus package Republicans posted in the dead of night are provisions to put hard-working taxpayers back on the hook for Wall Street’s riskiest behavior. This provision, allowing big banks to gamble with money insured by the FDIC, opens the door to another taxpayer-funded bailout of big banks – forcing middle class families to bear the burden of Wall Street’s mistakes.
Even Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), normally a hyper-partisan member of the Democratic leadership, now opposes the bill. He is opposed to the proposed increases in caps for individual donors in elections that was slipped into the omnibus legislation.
Some of the more extreme left-wing members of Congress such as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) are opposed to the omnibus for their own ideological reasons.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), currently the fringe-left favorite for the 2016 presidential nod, called the bill “the worst of government for the rich and powerful.”
The measure would ease some restrictions on derivatives trading which Warren says would help Wall Street and big banks. On the Senate floor she offered a self-serving version of history, saying the bill “would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.”
“These are the same banks that nearly broke the economy in 2008 and destroyed millions of jobs,” she said, ignoring the role that meddlesome regulations and left-wing public policies played in inflating the mortgage bubble that deflated around that time.