The new year is beginning to look a lot like every other year in Washington.
Instead of passing a proper budget, Congress will vote on a massive $1.1 trillion omnibus bill, which lumps almost every expenditure together in one bill – a bill few members will ever read. They will also pass another unprecedented extension of unemployment benefits and promise to offset the cost 11 years from now.
It’s business as usual in Washington.
Demonstrators with the Tea Party protest the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting of the Tea Party and similar groups during a rally called "Audit the IRS" outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 19, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB
Even though Congress already agreed on the topline spending figures for the next two years, they never passed an actual budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014. On Monday, the House will introduce a massive $1.1 trillion omnibus bill to fund the government until October. However, given that the current funding bill expires Wednesday night, there will not be enough time for both the House and the Senate to consider the bill. As such, they plan to pass another short-term Continuing Resolution just to fund the government through Saturday night, giving Congress the full week to pass the omnibus bill.
Although these budget bills are merely leftovers from the October and December agreements, conservatives should not shy away from speaking out against them. The purpose of funding government through a Continuing Resolution is to give the members a chance to finish the budget process in regular order. That means passing each of the 12 appropriations bills, one-at-a-time, in regular order. Instead, they used the Continuing Resolutions delays to pass one massive omnibus bill, which lumps every aspect of government together without the ability of most members to drill down into the line items of the budget.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. arrives for a markup hearing on the omnibus budget for Senate committees, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo Credit: AP
Moreover, as we’ve noted before, this bill will completely fund Obamacare, and the lack of a GOP demand to isolate funding for the Health and Human Services in a separate bill will obviate our ability to fight Obamacare later this year.
Another concern for conservatives is that in addition to allocating $1.012 trillion in discretionary spending, this bill will appropriate $91.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. The lion’s share of this money will go towards the war in Afghanistan. This is disturbing because it is long past due for Congress to audit our broader plans in the region. At present, we are entering our 13th year in the country with no clear mission. Our troops are taking casualties almost on a daily basis as they must confront a faceless enemy with their hands tied from egregious rules of engagement. We should not rubber stamp the funding as a footnote to the omnibus bill without demanding a clear plan from the administration to either define the mission and untie our troops or bring them home immediately.
[sharequote align="center"]It’s business as usual in Washington.[/sharequote]
In addition, the Overseas Contingency Operations account includes funding for the State Department to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis. Again, our involvement in this matter is undefined and Congress should first debate the authorization of such endeavors before appropriating money for the execution.
Last week, six Republicans joined with every Democrat to support cloture on a bill which will extend the unprecedented 73 weeks of unemployment benefit payments for another three months. However, Republicans have stalled further consideration of the bill because Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has refused to allow any Republican amendments to receive a floor vote. But late last week, after Republicans ostensibly agreed to pass the bill as long as there is some spending offset, Reid announced that he was open to considering some amendments.
At present, it appears that Reid will offer an amendment to the original bill (S. 1845) to extend unemployment benefits for a full year. Taking advice from Republicans, Reid is offsetting the cost by adding an extra year in sequester cuts to mandatory programs. This extra year is outside the 10-year budget frame!
In this Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, file photo, Luis Mendez, 23, left, and Maurice Mike, 23, wait in line at a job fair held by the Miami Marlins, at Marlins Park in Miami. Employers added a scant 74,000 jobs in December after averaging 214,000 in the previous four months. The Labor Department said Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, that the unemployment rate fell from 7 percent in November to 6.7 percent, its lowest level since October 2008. But the drop occurred mostly because many Americans stopped looking for jobs. Once people without jobs stop looking for one, the government no longer counts them as unemployed. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Throughout the past century, the main culprit of the success of progressivism is that Republicans tend to agree with their premises, albeit with a sour face. Instead of categorically opposing this unprecedented extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits while unemployment is declining, and demanding relief from Obamacare – the real job killer – in return, Republicans have agreed to pass the extension as long as it is “paid for.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has even suggested that there is a “general consensus” to continue extending the 73 weeks of unemployment benefits.
It’s no wonder Democrats smell blood in this fight. Republicans have allowed Democrats to successfully distract attention from Obamacare.
It is clear that Harry Reid will have enough votes to advance any Unemployment Insurance extension that contains some notional spending offset. As we’ve seen from previous extensions, the offsets tend to be notional, spread out over a number of different accounts, and last for 10 years.
Conservatives should categorically oppose any extension unless Democrats are willing to trade something transformational, such as repeal of parts of Obamacare. Alternatively, conservatives could demand that Democrats incorporate an amendment from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to cut off refundable tax credits for illegal immigrants in the bill. We spend roughly $4.6 billion a year on these credits.
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