After dithering for almost three years without a budget, Democrats are in a hellfire rush to finish all of the 12 annual appropriations bills. Unfortunately, Republicans leaders are in such a hurry to bury the hatchet on spending fights, they are willing to void all of the House-passed bills, in return for bipartisan conference reports. These conference committee versions – chock full of Senate Democrat amendments – will be forced down the throats of House conservatives without a chance to amend them, even though they never voted on two-thirds of the underlying bill. Worse, virtually all of the conferees are leftists, appropriators, and squishes.
Senator Sessions and other Senate conservatives tried to warn Republicans that Harry Reid was manipulating the process to insert $11.1 billion in extra spending to the Agriculture minibus bill. While overall discretionary spending caps have already been set at $1.043 trillion, Democrats still have leverage (thanks to weak Republican leadership) to spend tens of billion more on transfer programs, while compensating for the extra expenditures with massive cuts to –you guessed it – the Defense appropriations bill. They also have the ability to raise spending levels on mandatory programs, which are not subject to the spending caps imposed by the debt deal. Moreover, the Senate stripped out many of the House-passed policy riders, such as a provision to defund most of the FDA food takeover bill (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act ).
The Senate version of the bill, and the inevitable conference report, contains millions more in spending for virtually every domestic and international food program, including WIC. However, the most jarring difference between the two versions is the spending level for Food Stamps. Despite the fact that Food Stamp spending has doubled in just three years, the Senate bill – which passed with 16 Republican votes – appropriates $80.4 billion for this dependency program. That is $12.2 billion above the spending level set in the House version. Take a look at the unprecedented growth of this program, when total appropriations and actual outlays are taken into account.
SNAP now ranks as the most expensive means-tested program after Medicaid. If Republicans can’t hold the line on excess food stamp spending, over and beyond the president’s request, then how can they tackle entitlement reform?
And who are the conferees for the Ag minibus bill?
Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tim Johnson (R-S.D.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
Norm Dicks (Wash.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), John Olver (Mass.), Ed Pastor (Ariz.), David Price (N.C.), Sam Farr (Calif.), Chaka Fattah (Penn.) and Adam Schiff (Calif.)
Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (Ky.), Reps. Bill Young (Fla.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.), Frank R. Wolf (Va.), Jack Kingston (Georgia), Tom Latham (Iowa), Robert Aderholt (Ala.), Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.), John Culberson (Texas),
John Carter (Texas), Jo Bonner (Ala.) and Steven LaTourette (Ohio)
Hmmm, which version do you think will dominate the conference report, the Senate or House?
Sadly, we know the answer. Therefore, House conservatives must watch the committee with vigilance. They should not feel obligated or pressured into supporting bad legislation just for the sake of time. After all, wasn’t it House conservatives who passed a budget on time this year?
If there is not enough time to draft these bills in a transparent manner, then it is those who came late to the game who should lose out. Then again, Republicans are called the stupid party for good reason.