Nel's New Day

March 23, 2018

What’s in the Omnibus Spending Bill?

Filed under: Budget,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:49 PM
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Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cried crocodile tears about the poor Dreamers and blasted Congress for passing the 2,233-page spending bill that they hadn’t read as if he didn’t cause the DACA disaster and ever read any of the bills he signed. DDT ended DACA nearly 7 months ago and continually sabotaged solutions by rejecting multiple popular bipartisan solutions. He’s demanding line-item veto power for spending bills that SCOTUS ruled unconstitutional 20 years ago and the end to the Senate filibuster rule, but he kept the United States from the shutdown that he earlier said he wanted. DDT also bragged about the $1.6 billion for his “wall”—although he had demanded $25 billion—but that money doesn’t build his “big beautiful wall.” Funding goes to levees, existing fencing repair, and double fencing for existing barriers. Not one additional foot of the wall because the law prevents DDT from making any of the wall prototypes he has admired.

DDT had said he would sign the bill but then threatened to change his mind after watching Pete Hegseth denouncing it on Fox & Friends. (Hegseth may have even more control over DDT if he becomes Veterans Affairs Secretary.)  Several congressional members have already left town for their two-week vacation as the drama unrolled. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was already back in Wisconsin when he made the call to DDT about signing the bill.

The House passed the bill 256-167, with 145 Republicans and 111 Democrats voting yes, and 90 Republicans and 77 Democrats voting no.  The Senate passed the 2,232-page spending bill 65-32 with 23 Republicans, eight Democrats, and one Independent voting against the bill. The $1.3 trillion spending law puts $700 billion into the military, a ten percent increase from last year, and $591 to the people in the U.S. in another ten percent raise. Republicans don’t expect to pass any other major legislation before the midterm elections, but this law expires in six months.

On the GOP side, conservative are furious about the deficit despite promoting it with their tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, hawks are pleased with the biggest increase in defense in 15 years, and moderates are accepting. Democrat leaders are happy about the domestic funding, moderates believe in compromise, and all of the Dems are disappointment about missing major movement in guns and immigration issues.

Losers:  

Lack of Affordable Care Act market stabilization: The GOP refusal to compromise on their anti-choice positions will bring large increases in health premiums.

Immigration: Nothing about DACA because the GOP won’t compromise.

Sen. James E. Risch (R-ID): He held up the bill for hours because he didn’t want a federal wilderness area named after a dead political rival, Cecil Andrus, a Democratic governor of Idaho and Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter.

DDT: No money for his wall and no attention to his personal budget while Congress increased spending for items that he had slashed, including seed cash for a New York-New Jersey tunnel project that he tried to kill.

Winners:

Immigration: The GOP didn’t get 1,000 more beds for immigrant deportees and an additional 500 ICE agents to 1,000 and border agents to an additional 500. They lost detention beds and got only 328 more border agents. And ICE can’t fill the current quota of border agents even with a $10,000 hiring bonus. So-called “sanctuary” cities and states didn’t lose funding.

Low-income housing: The Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program doubles the number of public housing units. Despite HUD Ben Carson’s inability to track financing for public housing repairs in 1.1 million units and enforce tenants’ rights, the law lifts the cap from 225,000 to 455,000.  Expansion of the tax credit to build more affordable housing came in exchange for fixing the “grain glitch” in the GOP tax cuts that gave more tax deductions to farm coops such as Ocean Spray Cranberries instead of privately-owned farms.

IRS: An extra $196 million to help with the new tax law.

Education: Education Secretary Betsy Devos didn’t get her $1 billion moved from public to private religious schools. The law also allocates an additional $8.5 million to the Office of Civil Rights, keeps before and after school programs, retains the grant program for school-based mental health services, and boosts education funding by $3.9 billion. Congress also kept the grant program for low-income students to attend college, slightly raised the ceiling for Pell Grant awards, and boosted the federal work-study program. DeVos’ hoped-of budget cuts turned into increases.

Government Data: The Census Bureau gets an additional $1.34 billion for its nationwide survey. It also requires the Congressional Research Service to post all its reports online. 

Gun Background Checks: The law increases enforcement of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), expands requirements for updating records, gives incentives for NICS reports, and penalizes agencies that don’t add records to NICS.

The National Institutes of Health: A $3 billion funding increase.

The Community Development Block Grant: The program nearly doubled from $2.8 billion to $5.2 billion after DDT tried to eliminate it to help fund projects such as Meals on Wheels.

TIGER: The grant program for transportation projects is tripled to $1.5 billion.

The STOP School Violence Act of 2018: Increased grants for security training, metal detectors, stronger locks, emergency notifications, and other efforts meant to improve school safety.

Gun Violence Research: The law lifts funding bans for research about firearms imposed with the 1996 Dickey Amendment. The sponsor of this law has since regretted his action.

Tipped Workers: Workers won’t have to give up their tips to their employers, as DDT wanted although employers can require them to share with other workers if they are paid the full minimum wage, $2.13 for tipped workers who would have lost $5.8 billion a year if DDT had succeeded. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) called Risch’s delaying tantrum “the most like a Saturday Night Live skit” she’s ever witnessed in her 12 years in the Senate.

Government Workers: The military gets a 2.4 percent pay raise, and civilian personnel get a 1.9 percent bump.

Funding for the EPA/Energy: The law kept the EPA’s $8.1 billion budget despite DDT’s desire to cut it by one-third. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, eliminated in DDT’s budget, got a $47 million increase to $353 million, and the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, on DDT’s chopping block, increased 15 percent to $2.3 billion. There were a few losses regarding energy: the declares biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source, still debated by scientists, and livestock are now unfettered because they are exempted from the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.

Election Security Grants to States: Funded by $380 million.

Opioid Treatment/prevention: An increase of $3 billion.

Libraries: Restoration and increases of almost $400 million with another $700 million for Title IV education which could help school libraries.

Social Security Administrative Budget: A $480 increase for general operations.

Funding for public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Art.

Mammograms: Women can continue this procedure with no insurance copay.

Title X: The federal family planning program that helps provide contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings and STI and HIV testing to a diverse, low-income population continues, but DDT’s abstinence-only Title X chief, Valerie Huber, is in charge of the funds. The law does not end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood or ban life-saving research on fetal tissue donated from abortions and does not expand discriminatory abortion restrictions into the private insurance market.

Republicans complained about the process, but they were in charge. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused them of accelerating the process to leave town before the March for Our Lives about gun control in Washington tomorrow.

Buried deep in the 2,232 pages are stiff new sanctions against Russia, barring a number of federal agencies from dealing with Russia and sanctioning Russia for a large number of grievances. The law punishes Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea by barring funds from supporting all countries that back the annexation and directing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to push Americans on certain financial boards to disallow funds from flowing to programs supportive of Russia’s annexation. It also blocks federal funds from “enter[ing] into new contracts with, or new agreements for Federal assistance to, the Russian Federation” and allocates $250 million to the Countering Russian Influence Fund—a 150 percent increase from last year. Nobody knows who put these sanctions into the bill, but they have wide bipartisan support.

Something else may crawl out of the law’s 2,232 pages, but right now I’m with the moderates. It could have been worse.

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