Bipartisan Business as Usual

Well, we seem to have averted yet another government shutdown. Congress has passed, and Obama has signed, a 1.1 trillion-dollar bill that will keep the government operating through September of 2015. (It isn’t a budget bill, however; the last time Congress passed an actual budget, rather than an “omnibus spending bill” was 1997.)

Several members of Congress have lauded the measure as reassuring evidence that partisans can, indeed, work together. Others have pointed out that when you are distributing goodies desired by those partisans—when your legislation is a “Christmas Tree” with “ornaments” benefitting lawmakers and special interests—co-operation is easier to achieve.

What are those Christmas “goodies”? Who will benefit from them and who will pay for them?

Elizabeth Warren has pointed out that the measure contains multiple Wall Street giveaways (not to mention repealing part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill), but cuts over $300 million from the Pell Grant program.

Merry Christmas! Bankers win, students lose.

The giveaways to Wall Street, including the measures that once again open the door to the trading practices that triggered the Great Recession, have been the subject of a great deal of public debate. Other “gifts” have flown under the radar. Democratic Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado recently highlighted one of those.

Pointing to research done by the government watchdog group, “Represent US,” Polis noted that the bill allocates up to $1,000 per month to subsidize Congress members’ cars. At the same time, the bill authorized the reduction of benefits being paid to retirees by struggling multi-employer pension plans.

Merry Christmas! Car subsidies for Congress, coal for pensioners.

There was more, of course—much more. Defense lobbyists scored a big win, with a provision to pay $479 million for warplanes the Pentagon did not ask for. Gotta keep those defense contractors in business, you know.

Too bad ordinary Americans didn’t have the benefit of those defense industry lobbyists. Generosity to the well connected didn’t extend to the millions of low-wage Americans who are still struggling in the wake of the recession. Among other things, the bill cuts $93 Million from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program. It cuts $300 million from supportive housing programs serving the homeless. Section 8 housing vouchers were funded at a level half a billion dollars below Administration requests.

And of course, there were lots of those last-minute “special” provisions so beloved by our lawmakers. The bill overrules the 70% of Washington, D.C. residents who recently voted to reform D.C. marijuana laws, puts taxpayers back on the hook for big bank bailouts by repealing laws that were put in place after the 2008 financial collapse, and gives billionaires the right to donate up to 1.5 Million to political parties of their choice. (That’s ten times the current limit, if you’re counting.)

And a cautionary note: if you’re on the road in 2015, look out for big trucks. Negotiators tucked a policy rider into the bill that suspends regulations that set maximum time periods behind the wheel, after which professional truckers had to stop and sleep.

This Christmas, We the People evidently get to choose between the rock of gridlock and the Deep Blue Sea of venal “bipartisanship.”

It’s a sea on which only those who have yachts can sail.


  1. I have seen little of this on local or national news; I have seen the Colts’ loss and that Kim Kardashian at long last revealed her baby’s name. I ignored both newsflashes and worked the crossword puzzle in the Star to jump-start my brain for another Monday.

  2. Congress has been quite schizophrenic of late. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the Cromnibus, is that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been defunded from harassing state-legal Marijuana programs. Yet, they disregard the 70.1% of the vote in D.C. for relegalization.

  3. I am sickened and disenchanted with congress and with this particular omnibus spending bill. The people have no representation or control. If this version of the bill hadn’t passed the results would have been most likely even worse had it been delayed until when the Republicans take over congress in 2015. We now officially live in the “United States of and for Corporations”! My biggest hope is that the resulting revolution will not be a bloody one, however with the latest police actions I doubt that as well.

  4. Mary Kay: I think a revolution is pretty unlikely; we can’t even get people to register and vote. It’s hard to imagine that they would abandon the TV and get in the streets to protest.

  5. Bottom line Obama signed Cromnibus. Obama could have stood with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders among others fighting against Cromnibus. We have heard all the excuses for Obama – Republicans will not cooperate, Republicans have handcuffed him, etc. Obama had a Democratic House and Senate when he took office and did nothing. If Obama has been handcuffed it is the velvet handcuffs of Wall Street.

    It was Bill Clinton who took many of the protections we had from the Depression Days on Wall Street off. The Clinton’s are now Millionaires, making thousands for a speaking engagement.

    Obama-Care may be helping people but a National Public Option would have helped a lot more. The Public Option was not allowed to be considered.

  6. So, I guess one could say that we the people voted to screw people who are retirees, screw people who are students, screw people who are mothers, screw people who are infants or children, and screw people who live without homes.

  7. Republicans have told us since Reagan that we need to control spending. Now they are down to specifics and we see what they mean. Trade off welfare for oligarchy. Of course when they last impossed their advice on us in an unrestrained manner we saw that the redistribution of wealth up actually caused the need for much more welfare. Wall St welfare first of course but reluctantly amid great fuss they were forced to feed Main St as well. It was only palatable to them because they could blame it on Obama, this fulfilling their campaign promise to “blame it on Obama”.

    Reagan’s famous battle cry that government is the problem not the solution is now revealed in its true meaning. Getting all of us to pay for what gets them local votes and therefore continued turns at the trough is the solution, advancing the interests of all of us as a country is the problem.

    If a tiny thought appears in the back of your brain that the results of their dream is selling off our future to maintain their control, congratulations. If not, well, go back to TV and be ” entertained” until the future no longer matters to you. Let your kids take care of it.

  8. The best news I read yesterday was that Dish Satellite blacked out Fox News and Fox Business from their line up because of the contract talks failing. Made my day. Maybe those Faux Spews bots will read real news instead of watching lie after lie being shoved down their throats. One can dream right?

  9. I have to think the Democrats had some “wins” in this spending bill. They control the Senate, surely they got something they wanted in this failure of governance.

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