One of the last significant acts of the lame duck Congress will be passage of a spending bill that funds the federal government to the tune of around $1.1 trillion on an annualized basis. The bill goes through next September for all government agencies except the Department of Homeland Security, which will only be funded until February 27. The contents of the bill, still largely unknown–it is 1,600 pages long–were negotiated by the Congressional leaderships of both parties. While there are reports that the Democrats’ left wing, led by Elizabeth Warren, is rebelling against the bill, it seems clear that the votes will be there to pass the bill in the House tomorrow and the Senate within the next few days.
Many conservatives are up in arms because the bill does nothing to attack President Obama’s illegal amnesty. But that doesn’t bother me. That battle will be fought in February, and the focus will be exclusively on DHS and illegal immigration. The Democrats won’t be able to use their usual ploy of threatening to shut down the entire government (or 17% of it, anyway, like last time) if they don’t get their way.
What I don’t understand is why it makes sense to negotiate federal spending for the next fiscal year when the GOP is about to take control of the Senate. If we can’t make a better deal when we control both houses of Congress, then why did Republicans celebrate when we won 54 Senate seats? As for the $1.1 trillion price tag, that was set in accordance with the discretionary spending caps that are still in place, and will be for some years to come, as a result of a prior budget deal. But those are caps, not floors; shouldn’t Republicans try to cut spending below the maximum permitted by law?
In the days to come, more information about nuggets hidden within the 1,600 page appropriations bill will come to light. Here is one conservative critique of the bill. No doubt more such complaints will be forthcoming.