Cromnibus: a winter festival of unrestrained spending
As they had a habit of saying throughout the interstellar empire of “Dune,” the spice must flow. Money is once more flowing out of Congress to all manner of follies and outrages, thanks to an omnibus spending bill that funds everything except Homeland Security through September of 2015 – throwing away every scrap of leverage the incoming Republican majority could possibly exercise against Emperor Obama, ensuring that no one outside the authors of Democrat Party fundraising email spam will be talking about shutdowns, and effectively neutering freshly-elected conservatives. The GOP leadership can get through another year with its favorite wheezy excuse for not standing up and fighting for anything: Our hands are tied. Sure, the knots are a bit clumsy, but that’s to be expected when you tie your own hands. It’ll be good enough for the permanent Beltway culture, which can have a very merry Christmas, riding their one-horse open sleighs down streets coated with a fresh blizzard of taxpayer dollars, jingling all the way.
Americans with some vague memory of how the system is supposed to work might be wondering what happened to the sober deliberation of budgets, the careful spending of every dollar, and even the basic rules of accounting. Welcome to the new millennium, old-timers! We don’t do things that way any more. Government by perpetual crisis is so much more exciting, and lucrative for the Ruling Class. Now we wait until the hands of the fiscal doomsday clock stand at one minute to midnight, and the political class has to fund everything with “emergency spending bills,” scribbled in blind haste and posted on glitchy websites for public review in a half-hearted ritual of “transparency.” We live in the shadow of the cromnibus, an appropriately clunky word that combines “continuing resolution” emergency tactics with “omnibus spending” irresponsibility. The Cromnibus is a flabby beast a gaping maw and many tentacles to feed itself, but it lacks eyes, ears, and a frontal lobe.
Anyone who raises the slightest objection to this panicky spending bonanza is denounced as a penny-pinching extremist monster who just wants to kill children, puppies, and kittens for fun, by shutting down the government that keeps them alive. You don’t want Obama to throw up barricades around your national parks and memorials again, do you? No? Then shut up and spend.
The sole reservation in the winder spending festival is the Department of Homeland Security – which, as Fox News explains, is only funded through February, so the GOP leadership can pretend it’s going to stage a huge fight over Obama’s illegal amnesty orders next year. This is supposed to mollify the starchy citizens who still care about antiquated notions like the rule of law, the separation of powers, the value of citizenship, and national security long enough for the Establishment to enjoy its holiday vacation.
The bill finances the day-to-day operations of every Cabinet department except Homeland Security through Sept. 30, 2015, with $521 billion for defense and $492 billion tied to non-defense. Another $64 billion is provided for overseas military operations.
However, the plan would only fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27, 2015. That is a move by House GOP leaders to tee up a debate in early 2015 over the president’s recent executive action that could suspend deportation for as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.
Some conservatives nevertheless want to wage that battle now, and use the current spending bill as leverage. Though the House voted last week against Obama’s immigration plan, these lawmakers want to do more.
Strong opposition to the House budget plan from the Republicans’ conservative wing could force GOP chamber leaders to rely on Democratic votes to avert a government shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner can afford to lose only 17 caucus votes before he must turn to support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi, D-Calif., has said her party would be willing to help but has signaled she may make some demands.
Wonderful. Let’s have a big round of applause for the GOP Establishment, ladies and gentlemen! They managed to throw away the most remarkable electoral victory in a generation in only one month, maneuvering themselves into a position where the losers who got crushed will be making demands to win their support for a bill that effectively ratifies their will through half of their sojourn in electoral exile.
There was no reason to give the defeated Democrats anything except a stop-gap bill to fund the government through January, at which point the incoming Republican majorities should have exercised control over everything. If the Democrats don’t like that deal, let them shut down the government in a fit of pique, and tell voters how they party they just threw out of power should be allowed to control their lives for an extra year. Not only would that be smart politics – giving the Republicans more fiscal leverage to stand up for America against Obama’s amnesty, instead of just funding for the Department of Homeland Security – but it would represent more sensible and responsible government. All of this multi-trillion-dollar monstrosity is linked together; all of it should be on the table; the flab should be liposuctioned out of every agency at once in a comprehensive plan for fiscal sanity and increased American liberty.
I think a liposuction metaphor is particularly appropriate, because the federal faceplant over Ebola should have taught us that over-funded agencies are not merely wasteful, but inefficient. They fail at their core responsibilities when given extravagant funding to purchase bright shiny objects to distract themselves. If you want the Centers for Disease Control to focus on controlling diseases, don’t give them zillions of dollars to spend on building fancy bureaucratic palaces and conducting monkey-gambling studies. We should be having that discussion immediately, while the failures of managerial liberalism are fresh in the public mind.
Some conservative stalwarts have expressed a desire to keep the lame-duck Congress from waddling away with a trillion dollars tucked under its mangy wings, but they concede the panicky rush to pump out “emergency” spending makes it difficult to mount effective resistance:
Among those expected to vote against the bill is South Carolina GOP Rep. Mike Mulvaney.
“I don’t think we’ve proven to people who just re-elected us that we’re doing everything that we can,” he told FoxNews.com on Tuesday before the bill was released. “Now we’re going to fund the emperor (President Obama) without putting up a fight? That’s hard for me to swallow.”
On the Senate side, conservatives such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., could create problems in passing the bill.
They have pushed for an aggressive attack plan over Obama’s immigration actions. If any chooses to filibuster, it could draw out the process, potentially pushing debate into the weekend — requiring Congress to either pass a stopgap funding bill or risk at least a short partial shutdown.
Senate Republican aides said Monday that they didn’t expect their bosses to fight in a way that risks a partial shutdown. They suggest that the timing, with the Senate not expected to take a crack at the bill until Thursday or later, makes it difficult to launch a major fight.
“It cuts against us,” one Republican Senate aide said. “Leadership has played its hand very well.”
Gee, it’s too bad the Republican leadership can’t play a hand well against Democrats, isn’t it? They only turn into card sharks when they’re playing against the conservatives in their own party. Don’t expect them to be pulling any cards from their sleeves when they sit down for their scheduled February game of Amnesty Hold ‘Em, and the dead-eyed Democrats on the other side of the table begin screaming “Republican extremists want to defund Homeland Security!”
Why any of these leadership strategists think voters will reward them in 2016 after they (a) give the country away to Emperor Obama and his new imported class of super-citizens, and (b) allow the defeated minority party to effectively run Washington for a year, remains a mystery. Presumably they think their own base really isn’t all that serious about the rule of law and U.S. citizenship – it’s a bout of intense anger that will pass, perhaps aided by some idle speculation about all the wonderful things a Republican president can do with Obama’s imperial powers. The same leadership geniuses will sit in shock, mouths flapping helplessly like beached fish gasping for air, when the Beltway media complex instantly strips Obama’s Republican successor of those powers before his first hundred days are over. When they lose their majority to Democrats, they’ll sob and beg the new masters of Congress to remember how well Republicans treated the decimated Democrat Party in 2014… while the Democrats ruthlessly set about marginalizing Republicans, stripping them of power, and throwing their wadded-up budget proposals right back in their tear-streaked faces.
The Republican leadership isn’t just bad at standing up for its principles and fulfilling commitments to its voters. It seems institutionally incapable of understanding, as Democrats do, that power won today must be used to set the stage for tomorrow’s elections. Democrats target constituencies and service them, including constituencies that aren’t actually American citizens. Republicans try to figure out how badly they can get away with disappointing their base while they service a Beltway culture some of them fear, and others profit from.
If the Republican leadership was smart, they’d be looping events such as Jonathan Gruber’s disastrous House testimony into a big-picture assault on arrogant, wasteful government, and reminding the hard-working, rules-obeying American taxpayer how much contempt Democrats hold them in. A proper budget debate right after the holidays would be a great way to do that. The Democrats fear nothing more than a sharp Republican Party playing that kind of hardball and appealing directly to the working middle class, which is so comprehensively betrayed by the Democrat philosophy of rewarding its big contributors and powerful special interests at the expense of everyone else. There’s a lot of junk in this “cromnibus” spending bill that could be used to buttress such a case, such as a juicy payoff to outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid’s casino backers… but then, in order for Republican leaders to make hay over such corruption, they’d have to give up their pork and payoffs, and they don’t want that.
The only reliable bipartisanship in Washington is the agreement between both parties to serve and protect the permanent system of regulators, appropriators, lobbyists, and Big Media, which have fused together into a single organism with a shared bloodstream, through which well-connected individuals and flow from lobby organizations, to bureaucratic appointments, to media sinecures with ease. Look at the resume of a Beltway power player, and you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between elected officials, the agencies they nominally control, the special interests they serve, and the media that’s supposed to keep them all honest. The same person can work for all of those entities in the span of a decade. The only thing they really cooperate on is the care and feeding of the Cromnibus, the misshapen thing that feeds them all through its multitude of teats.
If all this “omnibus spending bill” jazz sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve played through the same hammy drama every year for the better part of a decade. In fact, the term “cromnibus” – currently beloved of such feisty insurgents as Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) – is said to have been coined by the office of then-House Minority Leader John Bohener, circa 2007, when he energetically criticized the Democrat majority for doing exactly what Boehner is doing today. The Cromnibus has devoured those who once fought to keep it at bay. No one in power even pretends to be interested in responsible government any more, because the American people don’t loudly insist on it… and we should have learned by now that only our loudest, angriest, most unified cries can be heard over the constant seductive whisper of the Cromnibus. Enjoy your latest round of desperate last-minute must-pass emergency spending from the same arrogant elites who claim they alone have the wisdom to manage every aspect of your life, and be advised you’ll be getting the same “present” from them next Christmas, and the one after that.