$1.1 trillion spending bill is a return to classic Washington trickery: Appropriations Committee needs reformed
Offering a sneak preview into what Americans can expect from a Republican-dominated Legislative Branch, the proposed $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill intended to keep the US government running will take us from an unproductive, dysfunctional Congress back to a government thoroughly run by special interests.
In a classic closed-door bad “compromise” between Republicans and Democrats, the 1,600 page, last-minute document, which is being shoved down the throats of the American People to avoid a manufactured crisis without any public debate as the GOP continues to hypocritically criticize the controversial passage of Obamacare, includes several policy changes that run counter to American interests.
Embolden by their 2014 mid-term victory built on a lack of voter turnout, Republicans feel driven to fulfill a supposed voter dictated “mandate” on whatever priorities they chose to pursuit. One of those priorities is apparently giving Wall Street a Christmas present by weakening major financial regulations enacted to address the issues that helped cause the 2008-2009 Great Recession.
Considering the critical nature and complexity of the subject, responsible Republicans should be pushing for regulatory reform through an independent, well-considered piece of legislation, not carelessly eliminating serious regulations through a spending bill without debate over the specific provisions.
As classic Washington goes, the gift giving must go two ways. For their present, the House is choosing to increase campaign donor limits from $194,400 per individual per election cycle to $1.6 million dollars per individual per election cycle. This means wealthy donors might soon be able to expand their “stage presence” by dumping even more money into campaigns in order drown out the voices of voters and push their agendas.
Since the Supreme Court in the infamous Citizens United case decided money is protected free speech, there has been an increased need to address the undue influence of special interests. Unfortunately, this counterproductive measure will only make things worse.
Republicans may have a reputation for sabotaging and abusing the legislative process, but Democrats also share in the blame.
Despite the potential harm of these and other provisions, the most outrageous aspect of this return to classic Washington insider politics-driven policy is the way they abuse the power of the purse. The House Appropriations Committee is considered the most powerful committee on Capitol Hill, yet it should have little power to no real power.
The Appropriations Committee exists to oversee how government spends money. As such, the Appropriations Committee needs to be limited to an oversight and “book keeping” role by Congress finding ways to restrict the ability of the Appropriations Committee to rewrite legislation. By doing so, the legislative power the Appropriations Committee has inappropriately appropriated for itself would be returned to the various committees that are charged with expertly crafting legislation.
Granted, the inherent role of the Appropriations Committee makes it very difficult to control how it prioritizes spending, but there needs to be debate and action on ways to do just that. Eliminating the way elected officials abuse the appropriations process to relegislate existing law they find political inconvenient, which is another hypocritical criticism Republicans have of the Obama Administration, would do a great deal to end the dysfunctional and underhanded nature of Congress.
Furthermore, this unsavory spending bill serves as yet another example of bad Washington compromises. Instead of compromising to solve two problems instead of one, Republicans want to solve the problem of struggling pension funds by making the problem worse. Instead of using debate to find alternatives to the most obvious solutions, lawmakers are trying to make it easier for struggling pension funds to simply cut retiree benefits.
Although this policy provision will currently affect only a million or so workers lucky enough to enjoy a guaranteed pension, fund managers are essentially being given the authority to deny retirees money they are legally entitled to receive. What this does is encourage fund managers to simply reduce liabilities, even through sabotage, and slash benefits instead of finding ways to improve the performance of pension funds and deliver on their promises to workers.
Moreover, the latest attempt to temporarily fund government and avert a government shutdown reveals a return to classic Washington trickery. Unfortunately, the reality that war-hawk Republicans are now playing with national security spending in order to force through their agenda suggests things will be worse than ever. That said, there are always opportunities for redemption and backlash over this political trickery offers just such an opportunity. Instead of passing this bill, even if it means a government shutdown, members of Congress needs to reconsider how they run the government.
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