Christmas Comes to Washington

Tonight, the Senate passed a $555 billion omnibus appropriations bill combining $70 billion in funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with the budgets of 14 Cabinet agencies. The military portion of the bill passed easily, 70-25, perhaps reflecting growing popular awareness of progress in Iraq. Thus, some observers hailed the vote as a victory for President Bush.
On the domestic front, however, it appears that there is little for conservatives to cheer:

The year-end budget deal … disappointed GOP purists who complained the bill spends too much money and contains about 9,000 pet projects sought by members of Congress.
“Congress refuses to rein in its wasteful spending or curb its corruption,” said Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz. Conservatives estimated the measure contained at least $28 billion in domestic spending above Bush’s budget, funded by a combination of “emergency” spending, transfers from the defense budget, budget gimmicks and phantom savings.
While disappointed by ceding Iraq funding to Bush, Democrats hailed the pending appropriations bill for smoothing the rough edges of Bush’s February budget plan, which sought below-inflation increases for most domestic programs and contained numerous cutbacks and program eliminations.
Democrats were able to fill in most of the cuts by using the very budgetary sleight of hand lambasted by conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Citizens Against Government Waste.
The White House, which maintained a hard line for months, has been far more forgiving in recent days, accepting $11 billion in “emergency” spending for veterans, drought relief, border security and firefighting accounts, among others. Other budget moves added billions more.

While I don’t pretend to understand the details of today’s legislation–no doubt, most of the Senators who voted for it don’t understand the details, either–the phenomenon seems familiar. When Senators and Congressmen have competing budgetary priorities, the most painless compromise (for them) is to fund both. So Bush got his troop funding and the Democrats (and some Republicans) got their pork. The taxpayers will get the bill.
Via Power Line News.


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