Extreme GOP Federal Budget Hypocrisy Early In 2014
It's a very (at least by Washington standards) snowy day in and around the beltway, so what better time than to demonstrate the extreme (bordering on the ultra) hypocrisy these days that exists when it comes to the federal budget. All of these seemingly unrelated events and announcements took place over the past four weeks.
1. It's not excessive spending if a Republican wants it #1. As this story from the Washington Examiner explains, on December 31, Chief Justice John Roberts called on Congress to spend more money on the judiciary. Roberts, a conservative Republican appointed by George W. Bush, sounded like the head of every interest group in Washington who says they are not part of the problem because the amount they get from the federal government is too small to make a difference. His exact words: "We do not consider ourselves immune from the fiscal constraints that affect every department of government. But...the independent judicial branch consumes only the tiniest sliver of federal revenues." You can read the chief justice's full year-end report here.
2. It's not excessive spending if a Republican wants it #2. The fiscal 2014 omnibus appropriation (H.R. 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014) passed by extraordinarily wide margins in both the House and Senate. Those in favor included 17 Republicans in the Senate and 166 GOP'ers in the House.
There were two reasons why so many congressional Republicans voted for increased federal spending even though most of them have criticized Democrats for years for doing that exact thing. First, passing the bill eliminated the possibility the GOP would be blamed for another government shutdown. Second, virtually every Republican who voted for the bill got some dollars devoted to something, if not many things, that her or his constituents will be very happy to have. In other words, this was the first real return of earmarks since they were banned several years ago and even anti-spending members couldn't resist.
3. Who Needs A Budget Resolution Anyway? Given the primary GOP talking point over the past few years about Senate Democrats refusing to pass a budget resolution, not to mention the victory House Republicans declared when they insisted on a "no budget no pay provision," this one is almost unimaginable. According to this story in National Journal by Tim Alberta and Billy House, some Republican "political types" are pushing the House not to pass a fiscal 2015 congressional budget resolution.
These political types are justifying the notion that a budget resolution isn't needed by saying that the agreement engineered by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) provides all the guidance Congress needs to move ahead with appropriations for 2015. This is remarkably similar to the argument House Republicans dismissed as laughable when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the Senate didn't need to pass a budget resolution because the Budget Control Act provided guidance for the coming year.
4. Who Reads? The complaints that no one who voted for Obamacare actually read the 961-page bill were repeated constantly by the GOP leadership during that debate. But that didn't stop those same leaders from making it virtually impossible for any House member to read the 1582-page omnibus appropriation. Members were given the bill less than 48 hours before having to vote on it.
What makes this all the more remarkable is that the House leadership could have easily avoidable this problem by insisting that the short-term extension of the continuing resolution last a week instead of just three days. That would have kept the government open and allowed enough time for anyone who wanted to review the bill to do so. The fact that they rammed the bill through on short notice makes it clear that the earlier criticism of Obamacare was politically expedient rather than a charge that should ever have been taken seriously. It also indicates that there may have been things in the omnibus the leadership didn't want anyone to know about.