Thursday, December 16, 2010

Legislative Alert – Action Needed Omnibus Spending Act of 2011

I issued a legislative alert over the weekend on a Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by the House to fund the government at 2010 levels through September 2011. That alert can be found here:
Legislative Alert: HR3082, Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

In that message, I said that it looked like the Senate would likely try to replace the CR with an Omnibus Spending Bill. As predicted, yesterday the Appropriations Committee released a 1,924 page bill, titled the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2011”, to fund the government through 2011. As predicted, it carries a higher price tag than the House passed CR – although supporters point out that it is $29 Billion below the budget requested by President Obama, it is $17 Billion more than the Continuing Resolution proposed by the House.

"While I appreciate the work that the House has done in producing a full year Continuing Resolution, I do not believe that putting the government on autopilot for a full year is in the best interest of the American people," said Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii).

What Senator Inouye apparently doesn’t understand is that any bill that continues the excessive spending of the Federal Government which the voters rejected at the ballot box last month is unacceptable. Just as the CR would do, this bill allows the lame-duck Congress to tie the hands of the Congress elected by the people last month, preventing them from addressing for nearly a full year the spending issues facing the nation. As I suggested over the weekend, what’s needed is a short term CR to fund the government from this weekend through February 2011 – that would allow the newly elected Congress to do what the voters asked them to do.

In addition to the general issue of overspending, the bill contains several other inappropriate additions:

1. Funding for Healthcare Reform, which was at $630 Million in the CR, is at $753 Million in this bill, plus an unspecified share of $3 Billion to be shared among several programs, including the Healthcare Reform Act. Worse, the Act specifies that these funds cannot be redirected by any future act of Congress – see these items on pages 983 through 1000 of the proposed legislation.

2. Starting on page 1685, the Act includes the full text of S510, the Food Safety and FDA Modernization Act, which the House had snuck into their CR to avoid the constitutional issues raised by its amendment and passage in the Senate.

3, Over $8 Billion in earmarks proposed by both Republican and Democrat legislators appear in the bill. A list of these earmarks, arranged by the committee that requested them, is conveniently provided by the appropriations committee themselves on their news page: http://appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm

Viewer discretion is advised for the earmarks – they range from the ridiculous to the truly unbelievable. For further info, the summary of each section of the bill is here.

And, the full 1,924 page text is here.

The Senate plans to work on this item and the START Treaty ratification the rest of this week and over the weekend. Senator Reid has promised that once these items are disposed of, he will hold a vote on the DREAM Act and take action on repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. Don’t count out the Public Safety Employees Unionization Act or other pet projects – if they can attach them secretly to a bill while we’re getting our last Christmas shopping done they won’t hesitate.

Senator Reid has said he’ll work right up until Christmas if that’s what it takes to get his agenda done, and if necessary he’ll come back after Christmas and stay right up until the newly elected Congress shows up to work in January. As reported in The Hill, Reid today had sharp words with Senators Kyl and DeMint on the subject of working through Christmas and New Years.

Phone calls on the spending bill should be concentrated first on our two Nevada Senators. The Hill also reported that Senators Bennett (UT), Bond (MO), Collins (ME) and Voinovich (OH)  indicated that they might vote for the spending bill, so they need calls as well as Minority Leader McConnell (KY) and Minority Whip Kyl (AZ). Their phone and fax numbers are below, and numbers for other Senators can be found here.

Senator McConnell has indicated that he believes what’s needed is a short term CR to fund the government until the new Congress can deal with the spending issue – all we need to do is give him the support to stand firm and hold his caucus together.

I know that we’d all rather be spending time getting ready for our Christmas and holiday celebrations, but think about this: a half hour spent calling and faxing a few key legislators could make all the difference, and restoring some sanity to government might just be the best gift you could give to your children and grandchildren this year.

Thank you!
                            
  • Senator Harry Reid (D- NV): DC Phone 202-224-3542, DC Fax 202-224-7327
  • Senator John Ensign (R- NV): DC Phone 202-224-6244, DC Fax 202-228-2193
  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R- KY) (Minority Leader): DC Phone 202-224-2541, DC Fax 202-224-2499
  • Senator Jon Kyl (R- AZ) (Minority Whip): DC Phone 202-224-4521, DC Fax 202-224-2207
  • Senator Bob Bennett (R- UT): DC Phone 202-224-5444, DC Fax 202-228-1168
  • Senator Kit Bond (R- MO): DC Phone 202-224-5721, DC Fax 202-224-8149
  • Senator Susan Collins (R- ME): DC Phone 202-224-2523, DC Fax 202-224-2693
  • Senator George V. Voinovich (R- OH): DC Phone 202-224-3353, DC Fax 202-228-1382

Jim DeGraffenreid
775-722-0304
jimde45@earthlink.net

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