While we weren’t watching, Congress quietly passed a continuing resolution/omnibus bill to avoid a government shutdown and fund the government through FY 2015. The bill basically keeps spending flat and funds everything except the Department of Homeland Security, which will be the stage for a fight over Obama’s immigration orders.
I don’t have a problem with the budget, per se. Flat spending is OK, especially with revenues growing. Addressing the long-term problem is going to require entitlement reform, which is unlikely to happen while Obama is in the White House. But, as I said a month ago, I’d prefer the Republicans put together a reform package to balance the budget long term and force Obama to veto it.
What’s really gotten attention, however, are the riders on the bill, which are laws unrelated to the budget itself. I’ll go through them quickly.
The most controversial is the effort to block marijuana legalization in DC. It forbids the DC government from funding marijuana regulation. I think you can probably guess that I hate this provision. The DC voters decided to legalize pot. It’s ridiculous for Congress to override them like this and a worrisome sign that Republicans are going to fall on the wrong side of history. Again.
The bill increases the limits on what people can donate to political parties. I don’t really have a problem with this since organizations can give tens of millions if they want.
They have given some schools flexibility in how they meet the new nutrition requirements for school lunches. Considering that I think these new requirements are based on junk science and are going to leave active kids starving, I’ll take this baby step on the way to repealing the regulations completely.
They blocked the EPA from adding the sage grouse to the endangered species list. I don’t know much about this issue, but my impression is that the grouse is declining but not in danger of extinction.
They forbad the government from spending money painting portraits of government officials and committee chairs. Good. Let them pay for their own damn portraits. We pay them enough.
They extended the time that incandescent bulbs can be manufactured. Considering that I’m typing this by the dim light of a worthless CFC bulb, I’m fine with this.
They required the WIC program to include more fresh veggies. Sure.
They forestalled requiring truckers to get more sleep. I’m supportive of this law because I know someone who was nearly killed by a sleepy long-haul truck driver. This is one of those rare times I think the incentives are lined up badly and we need a regulation. Not that I expect truckers to obey it anyway; a trucker friend once showed me how to fake the logs to make it look like you’re getting the required sleep.
Some clean water rules are delayed in farming areas. Sure.
Gitmo prisoners can’t come to the United States. I’ve indicated that I would prefer these guys be tried, but that idea isn’t going anywhere.
They rolled back a provision of Dodd-Frank that forbids banks from using FDIC-backed money to trade in derivatives. This was one of the few Dodd-Frank provisions I liked. If banks want to play financial games, that’s fine. But I don’t want to have to bail them out when it inevitably blows up in their faces.
The bill blocks the IRS from targeting certain groups. This is fine, but I don’t see any reason why the IRS would obey a second law forbidding them from doing what they’re already doing.
The bill mandates sexual harassment training for Hill staffers. Sure. Everyone else in the country has to get sexual harassment training. Why should Congress be exempt?
So, a mixed bag overall. But what’s hilarious is that the liberals are screaming bloody murder over this, as if attaching unrelated riders to a budget bill is something that was invented this week. Our government has constantly done this. There’s even a phrase for it: land-mine legislation. Huge encroachments on our liberty are passed this way all the time.
And to complain about the DC marijuana initiative being shut down this way is blazing hypocrisy. Yes, I think it was a bad thing to do. But when Barack Obama used the “stimulus” bill to shut down the DC Voucher program, we didn’t hear a peep out out of the liberals. So should the government of DC only have sovereignty when they’re doing something you like?
I think we know the answer to that.