A new analysis from the Conservative Review finds that the omnibus spending bill backed by Speaker John Boehner and House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) would bust through the spending caps set by a budget deal from House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
“Like most budget bills, far from cutting spending, this bill actually adds to the deficit,” Conservative Review senior editor Daniel Horowitz writes. He adds:
While the bill is being advertised as adhering to the budget cap of $1.013.6 trillion, it actually authorizes billions more in spending. Managers of the bill employed a special budget gimmick, which allows Congress to shift around payments on programs outside of the annual budget bill and gives them cover to increase spending in this budget bill by $19 billion.
Horowitz walks readers through the budgeting gimmicks to find that the bill spends at least more than $85 billion more than previously congressionally-agreed upon spending caps.
Additionally, war spending, known as “Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO),” are exempt from the budget caps. Last year, Congress authorized $85 billion in OCO spending, and due to the drawdown of forces in the Middle East, Obama initially requested only $59 billion. This bill authorizes $74 billion in war spending. There is also another $6 billion in disaster relief and the $5 billion in Ebola funding, which is designated as emergency spending and exempt from the caps. None of the extra spending is offset with spending cuts. Taken as a whole, this bill will total $1.119 trillion, over $85 billion more than the agreed-upon discretionary budget caps.
This–along with how the bill funds Obama’s executive amnesty through at least the end of February, has lots of wasteful spending contained throughout, and has other major issues–could prove detrimental to the bill’s previously-assumed success. The Ryan-Murray budget deal, which passed Congress despite efforts from conservatives to stop it, raised spending caps contained in the previous Budget Control Act (BCA)–commonly known as sequestration–designed to rein in Washington spending.
Since this omnibus bill spends nearly $100 million more than the Ryan-Murray caps, if Congress votes for it this would be the second time in a year when Republicans–who say they believe in less government spending and won the fall elections on that platform–dominated election results, yet led Congress against the will of voters to increase spending over codified limits.
In an analysis that incoming Senate Budget Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) released regarding the Ryan-Murray budget deal busting through the BCA’s spending caps last December, Sessions proved that their deal spent more than what Congress had previously limited itself to spending.
“The Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2013 would increase the discretionary spending caps established by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) by $45 billion in 2014 and $18 billion in 2015,” the opening paragraph of the Sessions analysis back then reads. “The $63 billion in higher spending is not offset over the BCA window of 2014-2021; during that period, the legislation increases spending by almost $25 billion, as 53% of the offsets in the BBA realized during the BCA window come from higher fees and revenues.”
These revelations from the Conservative Review–which was launched a few months ago by several key conservative Capitol Hill staffers–threaten to undermine the Boehner omnibus package. At least 50 Republicans have been planning to vote against the bill, numbers that are likely to increase as conservatives realize what’s actually in the bill. The measure, more than 1,000 pages long, was finally unveiled Tuesday night, and a vote is expected by Thursday. Boehner and his allies including Rogers, House Rules Committee chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise have been working with the minority to try to get Democrat votes in the House to pass the bill.
Boehner is definitely going to need Democrat votes to pass this bill, as his ally Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) has already publicly admitted.
“I think the votes are there,” Cole, an appropriator who also sits on the Rules Committee, said. “The agreements have been made and it’s really very bipartisan because remember the Democrats control the United States Senate so we still have to get this through a Democratic Senate and eventually it will have to go to the president to sign it.”
But, with the announcement from liberal Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that she’s opposing the bill–and calling on all the House and Senate Democrats to do so as well–it might not be easy. Warren came out on Wednesday in fierce public opposition to the bill, and then Politico followed up with a separate story on how many Democrats walked of a lunch with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi–who’s working along side Boehner to try to pass the bill–saying they would oppose it. One key “no” vote is Democratic Budget Committee ranking member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
The House is still set to vote on the bill on Thursday, assuming Pete Sessions’ Rules Committee approves the measure to go to the floor, but chaos seems to be coming in Congress. Maybe things won’t work out after all.