By now, we are all intimately acquainted with the bromide that “Republican’s only control one-half of one-third of government.” Nonetheless, we must remember that, in the realm of appropriations, they control the most consequential body of government; the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, almost a year into their stewardship of that body, they have shown only a tepid inclination to defund Obamacare.
Despite months of diligent work on appropriations bills, House (and Senate) Republicans are abdicating their budget powers to Harry Reid’s “minibus” scheme – a scheme in which the House is jettisoned from two-thirds of the process, while conference committees adopt the spending bills favored by Senate Democrats [more here and here]. Next week, the Senate will vote on the second minibus bill. Reid is using the House-passed Energy-Water bill (HR 2354) as a vehicle to carry the Financial Services (S.1573) and State-Foreign Operations (S.1601) bills (even though they were never voted on by the full House). So we will have one appropriations bill that covers such disparate expenditures as the IRS and the State Department. But don’t worry, it’s a minibus bill; not an Omnibus bill. Hence, Republicans will get the green light to vote for it. All but 14 of them already voted for cloture to proceed with the ‘don’t call it an omnibus bill.’
Here are the issues with Reid minibus number two:
1) The entire package will appropriate $129.5 billion, roughly $8 billion more than the House version. Most of the excess appropriations are for the State Department.
2) The House version of the State-Ops bill (passed out of Subcommittee), HR 1905, contains many cuts in foreign aid to unsavory entities, such as the Palestinians and the UN. There are also provisions that force the administration to crack down on those who do business with Iran. The final Senate version, the one that will prevail in committee without a chance to amend in the House, will not contain those cuts.
3) The House version of the Financial Services bill (reported out of committee), HR 2434, which funds the Treasury Department, the federal judiciary, the District of Columbia, the Executive Office of the President and a number of other agencies, has a provision to limit funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The Senate version will contain no limits on that entity or any other Dodd-Frank related expenditures.
4) Most importantly, the House version of the Financial Services bill contains two provisions barring the IRS from implementing Obamacare. The first would block certain transfers of money from HHS to the IRS related to implementation of Obamacare. The second provision would prohibit the IRS from using funds provided through the bill to verify that individuals have health care coverage and impose penalties on those who do not. The Senate stripped out these provisions.
5) All of the additional Senate funding for odious big-government programs will have to come at the expense of defense spending. The overall discretionary spending cap was already set at $1.043 trillion. As such, if Republicans continue to allow more funding for these bills, there will be an inevitable hit to the Defense appropriations bill.
Despite the jarring vices of the Senate minibus bills – both in terms of policy content and process – Republicans are credulously voting for cloture on these bills. They are doing so because Harry Reid promised them votes on their amendments to reinstate some of the House provisions. So Republicans are granted opportunities to offer amendments that are summarily defeated, in return for final passage of the bill…without the amendments! It doesn’t get more pathetic than that.
Republicans still have several opportunities to defeat these minibus bills and reassert House control over the process. First, Senate Republicans must oppose Harry Reid’s amendment to turn the Energy-Water bill into a three-legged minibus bill. Next, they should vote against cloture to shut off debate (they already agreed to commence debate on the bill). Finally, if the bill passes the Senate, House Republicans must object to unanimous consent (requested by the appropriators) on the motion to instruct conferees to conference committee. They must demand an opportunity to offer amendments, which will strip out funding for Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and aid to evil foreign entities.
Now is not the time to go wobbly on spending, especially as it relates to Obamacare. Even as other conservative measures went down to defeat this week, the Obamacare individual mandate was voted down in Ohio with overwhelming support.
Earlier this month, Congressman Steve King bemoaned the waning alacrity of Republicans to defund Obamacare. “I have seen the fervor to repeal and defund Obamacare diminish significantly to kind of a flat line,” he told CQ. Unfortunately, this might be another consummate example of the American people being ahead of their elected leadership; even ahead of those who were elected to defund Obamacare.