Thursday, March 10, 2022

Omnibus Spending Spree Shows Washington at Its Worst

News flash from Washington: Congress is rushing to pass a bill it hasn’t read, full of earmarks and special favors for campaign donors. Where have we heard that before?

The House introduced the omnibus bill after midnight Tuesday, and it’s a whopping 2,741 pages. A combination of poor planning, Democratic delusions, and an upcoming vacation (seriously!) have Congress rushing to ram through a bill totaling thousands of pages, and trillions of dollars, in a matter of hours. Again.

Stop Overspending

Based on leaked press reports, the legislation has some prominent provisions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the bill would include about $14 billion in humanitarian and military assistance for Ukraine. Another $15 billion would go towards purchasing additional Covid tests and treatments, in the hopes of staving off any new variants of the disease that may emerge in the coming months. Previous rounds of Covid spending and equipment still haven’t been used.

Reports also note the bill is a veritable spending spree of pork for special interests, with more than 4,000 earmarks. If Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration think we should add this new spending to our $30 trillion (and rising) national debt, they’re not trying hard enough to find economies.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the budget-busting bill Democrats rammed through last March in the name of “Covid relief” would spend out $528.5 billion in the fiscal year ending this September 30, and another $114.3 billion in the fiscal year starting October 1. That’s a total of $642.8 billion in the next two years alone that Congress could re-purpose—much of it in the form of bailout funds to states and localities (read: government employee unions) that are already flush with cash.

Congress should use the omnibus to vacuum up some of this unnecessary spending, to control both our national debt and runaway inflation. But instead, lawmakers will likely engage in the time-honored Washington tradition of log-rolling, whereby Republicans agree to vote for Democrats’ wasteful spending priorities in exchange for Democrats voting for Republican initiatives.

Rushed Process

The spectacle of both parties wasting money they don’t have is matched only by the chaotic process leading up to the bill’s enactment. Congress has to pass the bill released Wednesday by midnight on Friday to avoid a government shutdown. The end result will resemble a late-night cram session before the deadline for a term paper, but with much higher stakes: Trillions of dollars in spending, and lawmakers who should have learned not to procrastinate decades ago in school.

Democrats bear much of the blame for the last-minute rush. For months, progressive lawmakers have attempted to convince themselves that unified control of the House, Senate, and White House meant that they could repeal provisions like the annual Hyde Amendment rider that prevents federal funds from going towards abortion.

But a recent Senate test vote on a bill to codify Roe v. Wade couldn’t obtain a simple majority, much less the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Instead of facing up to this legislative reality last summer, Democrats spent months wasting time, dragging a process that should have ended last September (the fiscal year technically began last October 1) into mid-March.

Another complication: Democrats’ plan to go on “retreat” — vacation — for the second half of this week: “[House Majority Leader] Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told House Dems they might have to head back to D.C. early from their Philadelphia retreat to avoid a government shutdown.”

The ironies abound—both of Democrats being in retreat, and of lawmakers not wanting to cut short their junket at a swanky hotel to do the jobs taxpayers actually pay them to do. Its seems surprising Democratic leadership wouldn’t just ask all their members to vote by proxy from Philadelphia, so they can continue their vacation.

This Is Why People Hate Washington

The omnibus process is about as anti-democratic (with a small “d”) as you can get—a handful of lawmakers and unelected staff sitting in a private room and deciding the fate of trillions of dollars in spending. When the proverbial puff of white smoke finally emerges, rank-and-file legislators get the “choice” between passing a bill they haven’t had time to read and shutting down the federal government.

If Republicans really want to show they’re serious about responsible governance, they should promise an end to this annual sorry spectacle of an omnibus if they win back control of Congress in November. The American people deserve better, and they should vote to demand it.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.