December 8, 2009
Half a Trillion Omnibus is a Total Failure of Democrat Leadership
WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a joint House and Senate conference committee today, Rep. Jerry Lewis blasted the Democrat leadership in the House and Senate for its failure to complete the Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations process, leading to a massive, $447 billion Omnibus Appropriations bill.
The legislation in conference committee today contains six of the seven remaining Appropriations bills that have yet to be approved by Congress this year, including the Commerce, Justice, Science bill, the Financial Services bill, the Labor, Health, and Human Services bill, the State and Foreign Operations bill, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill, and the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill.
Lewis stated that the fact that the Omnibus is being considered at all is a reflection of the total failure of the Democrat leadership to accomplish its most basic duty – providing responsible funding for the federal government.
“This is the third straight year that Congress has had to rely on a patchwork of continuing resolutions and Omnibus spending bills to keep our government running. This represents a record of failure and a lack of leadership at the highest levels of this Congress,” Lewis said.
Lewis remarked that the overly generous funding level in the Omnibus allows virtually every agency and account to benefit from significant increases, and that tough but necessary decisions were not made to maintain fiscal discipline. The rate of overall spending in the Omnibus corresponds with the Democrat’s budget blueprint that increases non-defense, discretionary spending by 12% over last year. When all Appropriations spending is combined, the Democrat majority will have increased non-defense, non-veterans discretionary spending by 85% over the last two fiscal years.
“There is no question that the era of big government has returned to Washington,” Lewis said, “Sadly, the misplaced priorities of this Appropriations process have resulted in too much spending, fewer jobs, and bigger government that the public doesn’t want and can’t afford.”
All Members – Republicans and Democrats alike – were largely shut out from offering amendments to Appropriations bills in the House because of the Democrat leadership’s demands for expediency. However, even though the Democrat majority went to great lengths to systematically muzzle opposition, Appropriations work was not completed on time, resulting in the Omnibus now being considered.
“Here we are two weeks before Christmas — and ten weeks after the beginning of the fiscal year —demonstrating to the world that Congress remains incapable of doing its work. As deficits mount, each of us bears witness to a government spending spree unrivaled in our nation’s history,” Lewis continued.
In the conference committee today, Republicans attempted to limit the spending levels and controversial policy riders in the Omnibus through a series of amendments, all of which were defeated on party-line votes.
The following is a description of amendments offered by House Republicans in the Omnibus conference committee today:
Rep. Tom Latham offered an amendment that would limit spending in all of the Appropriations bills included in the Omnibus – excluding Military Construction/Veterans Affairs – to a 2% increase over last year, compared to the Democrat’s 14% increase in these five bills. Limiting these bills to a 2% increase would free up at least $38 billion – enough to pay for the lion’s share the President’s proposed troop increase in Afghanistan. The amendment failed on a 9-5 party line vote
Rep. Tom Latham offered an amendment to clarify the prohibition on federal funds going to ACORN or its subsidiaries. ACORN is currently under investigation in several states for corruption, fraud, and misuse of taxpayer funds. The Latham amendment would have provided a much needed legislative fix to language contained in the both the Omnibus and the already-approved Continuing Resolution, which was essentially overturned by a recent Justice Department decision that took advantage of a legal loophole to allow ACORN to continue to receive federal funds. The Latham ACORN amendment failed on a 9-5 party line vote.
Rep. Zach Wamp offered an amendment to stop TARP from becoming a reusable, $700 billion taxpayer funded “slush-fund.” The amendment would require $200 billion in unused TARP money to immediately be returned to the treasury, would prevent the re-use of returned TARP funds, and would prohibit the Treasury Secretary from extending the TARP program beyond its termination date of December 31, 2009. The amendment would have insured that TARP funds would be used for deficit reduction, not more government spending. The amendment failed on a 9-5 party line vote.
GUANTANAMO BAY DETAINEES:
Rep. Frank Wolf offered an amendment to prohibit the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees into the U.S. for any reason, including prosecution. The Obama Administration has announced that as part of its plan to close Guantanamo, many detainees would be transferred to the U.S. for trials or indefinite detention. Rep. Wolf’s motion is virtually identical to motions that passed overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate, but that has not been included in any final legislation. The amendment failed on a 9-5 party line vote.
SOCIAL POLICY RIDERS:
Rep. Todd Tiahrt offered an amendment to return provisions in the Omnibus related to needle exchange programs and abortion restrictions to language carried in past Appropriations bills. Appropriations bills have often carried prohibitions on these types of programs from receiving federal funds, but the Omnibus loosens this language. The Omnibus would allow needle exchanges and only prohibits Federal funds for such use at locations determined by local health or law enforcement officials to be inappropriate, and does not include a long-standing provision to prohibit federal and local funds from being used to provide abortion services in the District of Columbia. While a prohibition on both Federal and local funds for D.C. abortions has existed since FY 1996, the DC government will now be able to use taxpayer funds to provide abortions. The amendment failed on a 9-5 party-line vote.
MINE RESISTANT AMBUSH PROTECTION VEHICLES (MRAP):
Rep. Jerry Lewis offered an amendment to provide $7 billion for 4,000 additional MRAP-All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs) for Afghanistan, offset by unspent and unneeded stimulus funds. These vehicles are designed specifically for Afghanistan’s rugged terrain, where there is hardly any transportation infrastructure. As offsets, this motion would shift $3.4 billion from the loan guarantee program authorized and funded in the stimulus to subsidize renewable energy, and $3.6 billion from General Services Administration (GSA) federal building funds in the Recovery Act that have not been spent. The amendment failed on a 9-5 party-line vote.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) REGULATION:
Rep. Todd Tiahrt offered an amendment to prohibit the EPA from using federal funds to implement any new rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA announced this week that greenhouse gas emissions are hazardous to human health – paving the way for new and expansive regulations to be put in place without Congressional approval. The potential costs of these new regulations on U.S. industries and households could be enormous – driving up the prices of everything from electric bills, to gasoline, to retail goods. These kinds of irresponsible regulations are especially ill-advised during the current recession, and could have a detrimental effect on jobs and economic growth. The amendment failed on a 9-5 party-line vote.