Arthur Christopher Schaper
After days of Democratic wavering and vote-whipping from President Obama and House Republican leaders, HR 83, otherwise known as the CRomnibus ($1.1 trillion legislation combining continuing resolutions and a spending omnibus) passed with a bare majority.
All appropriations bills originate in the House then go to the Senate, followed by conference committees to resolve disputes. This time, House reps fled Washington as soon as their 1,000+ page bill moved to the upper chamber. Their disappearance revealed a tacit demand that the US Senate just pass the legislation, whether their colleagues called it a “Satan Sandwich” or “Satan's Compromise.”
In the US Senate, not just Tea Party affiliate Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) opposed the legislation, but so did progressive Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who delivered one of the most passionate, partisan speeches against Wall Street and the backroom deals which beefed up the pork-laden bill. Her populism was so well-received, even conservative nationalist Pat Buchanan praised her efforts on the December 12th edition of The McLaughlin Group.
Despite her rejection of the CRomnibus, and Cruz’ forcing a vote on the Homeland Security funding rider, the final vote passed the bill by a bi-partisan, yet deeply divided 56-40 vote, thus averting another government shut-down.
Joining Warren in voting down the bill, Rhode Island’s Senators issued the following press releases.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse:
“This legislation accomplishes the bare minimum needed to avert a government shutdown, but it also includes provisions to further degrade our campaign finance laws, to allow government bailouts for banks engaged in risky trading, and to cut retirement benefits for over a million Americans. These provisions were slipped in at the last minute with no opportunity for debate, against the best traditions of the Senate. I voted against this bill because Rhode Islanders deserve a government that works to solve real problems for real people, not one that sneaks in special deals for special interests.”
Recognizing that the legislation would fund the bare necessities of the federal government, Whitehouse protested the lack of transparency and pension cuts. Interesting: a liberal Democrat complaining about the lack of transparency in federal budget legislation. By voting against the CRomnibus, and thus by his own admission, Whitehouse voted for a government shutdown. Republicans should take this capitulation as a win, which exposes a division within the Democratic caucus between centrists and liberals which will widen over the next two years.
From Senator Jack Reed:
When you have divided government, neither side is going to get everything they want, but you work together to try and reach a principled compromise. For months, I have worked hard alongside Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL), and our colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to craft a bipartisan, balanced agreement to fund the government and strengthen our economy.
Reed was working with conservative members of the opposition in the US Senate, who also voted against the CRomnibus.
“We put together a compromise appropriations package making critical investments in creating jobs and improving our infrastructure. While imperfect, the bill includes federal funds I advocated for that will help boost economic and community development projects in Rhode Island, as well as key education, transportation, and environmental initiatives.
“But regrettably, several extraneous and objectionable policy provisions were inserted into the bill outside of the established process, and without thorough consideration and debate.
This liberal Democrat votes with conservative Republicans and complains about the lack of transparency in Washington. Has Reed gone Tea Party on us without realizing it?
These last minute additions include changes of a nature that demand the highest and most transparent level of consideration. Laws that impact pension recipients, provisions to weaken Wall Street reforms, and a roll back of campaign finance laws are not appropriations matters. They are significant changes, and their inclusion here further erodes people’s faith in government.
If anyone takes the 2010 and 2014 Republican waves seriously, “We the People” have lost faith in the government a long time ago. A rising consensus of representatives in the House and the US Senate respect the American voters’ suspicion of Big Government and are voting accordingly. Apparently, this growing cohort of legislators opposing large bills filled with amendments and riders includes Senator Reed.
Because we were unable to strip out these harmful provisions, I opposed final passage. Simply put, these particular riders are a bad deal for the middle-class and the American people deserve better.
Without acknowledging the obvious, Reed voted for a government shutdown, too. Granted, federal funding will continue until September, except for the Department of Homeland Security, but Senators Whitehouse and Reed have revealed themselves as the true obstructionists in Washington, or now inescapable allies of conservative resistance to Big Government.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.