[This was co-authored by NCPA Legislative Director Brian Williams]
When digging yourself deeper into a hole, the best course of action is to stop digging. That’s good advice for one and all. Back in January, the Congressional leadership promised to stop digging, so to speak. They promised to bring “regular order” to an out-of-control spending spree, to fight against the Obama Administration’s spending addiction, and to restore fiscal sanity to the federal government. We had high hopes. But here we are, twelve months later, and Congress is still digging.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Congressional leadership introduced a 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. It adds an additional $80 billion in spending over the next two years, beyond what Congress already planned to spend! This is an unbelievable action from a Congress that was elected to do just the opposite. Congress already spends $426 billion more than the Treasury collects from taxpayers. That’s the deficit this year alone. And Congress has borrowed almost $19 trillion dollars to pay for federal government activities over the last several years. That’s the national debt. At some point, someone in Congressional leadership needs to get control over this spending addiction. That’s what Americans believed they were doing when they elected a majority of Republicans to the House and Senate last year. That’s what they believed would happen when Rep. Paul Ryan was elected as Speaker of the House.
Worse yet, the Omnibus Spending Bill not only increases spending that we can’t afford, it also promotes bad policies that will make it more expensive for Americans to work and live. The bill provides more funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate power plants. It provides funding for the EPA to regulate ponds and streams and to restrict economic development and growth. It provides funding to the Department of Labor to regulate IRAs and retirement plans. And it provides funding for a refugee resettlement program, just as America is coping with the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino. Where does Congress think this funding comes from? American taxpayers are tired of funding government programs that work against us instead of for us. If government spending isn’t going to help us, at least the government could leave us alone. Apparently, that is too much to ask. Instead, Congress is spending taxpayer money on programs that harass, regulate and potentially endanger the taxpayers themselves. Unbelievable.
As if the increased spending and bad policies aren’t bad enough, the Congressional leadership wanted to quickly pass the 2,000-page bill in a little more than 48 hours. The so-called “Three Day Rule” is supposed to give members of Congress three days to read and understand legislation. But Congressional leadership introduced the bill at 1:34 AM on Wednesday and by 10 o’clock on Wednesday morning they were asking members how they were going to vote. The House passed the bill today and the Senate votes this afternoon. This type of “pass-it-before-you-read-it” process has caused problems in the past. Remember Obamacare? Congressional leadership should have learned that lesson by now. Why not give members of Congress and the public enough time to read and understand legislation before voting on it? We can only think of one reason: Because they don’t want members to read the legislation before voting on it.
To be fair, we aren’t completely unhappy with all of the policies in this bill. The Omnibus Spending Bill does have a couple of good things to applaud. The bill prohibits funding to bail out the insurance companies in the Obamacare health insurance program. It removes the ban on exporting crude oil. And it prevents the IRS from regulating political speech. But on the whole, NCPA believes the backward policies and reckless spending in this bill are unwise and detrimental to the direction we ought to be headed.