The new omnibus spending bill is about to be rammed through the House is the same way that Obamacare was passed. A massive bill is going to be presented and the members, of both parties, are going to be given a minimal amount of time to read the bill.
House conservatives are griping that Speaker [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] (R-Ohio) is putting the squeeze on them by rushing through a $1 trillion spending bill in Congress’s last week in session.
Appropriators are expected to roll out the legislation early next week, giving critics scant time to figure out what’s inside before they cast their votes by the end of the week. The government would shut down on Dec. 12 without a new funding bill.
“Here we are doing the appropriations bill the last couple days” before a government shutdown, conservative Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) said in an interview this week. “That’s not to squeeze [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ]. That’s to squeeze us.”
Boehner critics say there’s no reason the Speaker couldn’t have brought the spending package to the floor this past week, giving the House more time to consider it.
But doing so would also give more time for the right to build a case against it.
“They don’t want you to read it, that’s why! You think they want you to analyze all the mischievous items in there?” Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told The Hill.
Asked if the timing of the plan was aimed at jamming the Senate or House conservatives, Jones replied: “I think its aimed at screwing over the American people. You can quote me on that.”
This is disappointing but somewhat predictable behavior. Boehner and newly minted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are running like scalded dogs from any confrontation with Obama in the waning days of this Congress. Wait, they counsel, just wait until next year when we have a majority in both houses and then you’ll see some action. Unfortunately, you don’t have, to coin a metaphor here, to be a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing. Next year will mark the beginning of the primary season and then the call will be, “Don’t do anything now and screw up 2016, just wait until we have the presidency and then you’ll see some action.”
But the level of secrecy they imposed for this round has been exceptional and could yet hurt the Appropriations Committee leadership as it tries to reestablish itself.
Backroom bargaining is nothing new for Appropriations, but there has also been a long tradition of tempering this secrecy by offering informal guidance as the decisions are made. This has been more absent now, with veteran clerks fearful of talking about even noncontroversial parts of their bills.
The leadership would argue that the secrecy is justified given the political tensions in Congress. But the picture is of a committee so scared of outside disruptions that it’s forgotten the pride it once took as a public panel making public decisions about public money.
Well, we can’t have transparency because then all those backroom deals that offend the sensibilities of lots of people, conservative and liberal alike, become law without discussion. This doesn’t bode well for how the House and Senate will work next year.