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Tying the Hands of the New Congress

Posted By Ernest Istook On December 6, 2010 @ 4:30 pm In Obamacare | Comments Disabled

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The lame duck Congress wants to tie the hands of the new Congress, limiting the ability to change government as the voters insisted in November. And just like other legislation such as Obamacare, this plan is being drafted in secret, not in the open.

Circulating on Capitol Hill is a draft measure—written by the Senate Democratic majority in backrooms—to fund all the federal government not only through fiscal year (FY) 2011 but also partially into FY 2012. This 183-page plan would:

  • Handcuff the ability of newly elected Representatives and Senators to de-fund Obamacare,
  • Restrict the new Congress’s leverage to rescind unused “stimulus” and TARP spending,
  • Have the outgoing Congress dictate spending for more than the usual one year, and
  • Bypass the normal appropriations process of public committee votes, floor debates, and the ability to offer amendments on the floor of the House and Senate.

This is the same outgoing Congress that failed to do its work on time; it should have passed spending bills before fiscal year 2010 ended on September 30. But they didn’t want the voters to witness just how much they wanted to spend, despite our trillion-dollar-plus annual deficits, so no appropriations bills were passed by Congress, and all but a couple of spending bills never even made it out of committee.

Now insiders are crafting a take-it-or-leave it omnibus measure—and who knows what they’ll toss in at the last moment.

Meantime, the federal government is operating on temporary authority known as a continuing resolution (CR), which expires December 18. A series of short-term CRs have kept government going since October 1.

Rather than appropriating only until the next fiscal year ends on September 30, 2011, the measure calls for over $100 billion in “advance appropriations” for the first quarter of FY 2012. Chief among these is over $86 billion in first quarter payments to states for Medicaid, which was beefed up by the Obamacare legislation. The original White House budget had proposed providing states with “only” $67 billion for that purpose.

The longer the duration of the CR, the less ability incoming Representatives and Senators have to influence spending. A short-term CR would give them greater leverage to influence the FY 2011 budget, including de-funding several initiatives that could include part of Obamacare.

And because the plan is being assembled in backrooms by party insiders, it’s likely they’ll tack on more provisions and its current page count of 183 pages would get even bigger. Since it’s happening in secret, it’s anybody’s guess what other issues might be added.


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