In case you missed it, last night around 8 PM, the House and Senate released a budget deal that was part omnibus (various appropriations bills tacked together) and part continuing resolution (a temporary funding bill).
This legislation is over 1,600 pages long, and the deadline to pass funding for the government is tomorrow. The idea that members of Congress could possibly have time to read carefully, much less review this legislation in any depth, is of course absurd. And there are other serious concerns.
This bill is just over $1 trillion, and like the Ryan-Murray agreement that preceded it, essentially pays lip service to the Budget Control Act (BCA) by staying under its basic levels, while Congress has all along ignored the sequester, the BCA’s most important consequence. Claiming to follow the BCA while ignoring the sequester is questionable, to say the least.
There are some serious concerns with the specifics as well.
- $64 billion more to the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, with, as usual, little explanation or oversight.
- $5.4 billion in emergency funding for the Ebola outbreak.
- $849 million to refuel and overhaul the George Washington aircraft carrier, which the military itself wanted to retire.
And so on…
We expect to find far more examples as we and other watchdog organizations comb through this massive legislation.
But it’s worth noting that it’s not all bad news. There are some small reductions within the bill, such as $345.6 million cut “and extensive oversight requirements” for the Internal Revenue Service.
And notably, the bill prohibits “risk corridors” within the Affordable Care Act, which is an issue we’ve been writing about and lobbying on behind the scenes for over a year. This provision prevents what would basically amount to a taxpayer bailout, something we at the Coalition have fought against for some time.
Overall, the bill, of course, still spends far too much. While it pays lip service to the BCA, ignoring the sequester is a mistake, as is neglecting opportunities for much-needed budget trimming. Frankly, though, things could have been a lot worse! And several key portions do make necessary reforms.
In a larger sense, we know that fiddling around with discretionary spending at the last minute will never solve our budget woes. Let’s celebrate small victories with even more determination to keep pushing for the type of wide-scale reform so desperately needed.