GOP Blocks Democrats' Last-Ditch Spending Spree

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) forced Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-N.V.) to surrender his efforts to fund the government with Democratic priorities for another ten months.

Reid accepted a short-term, clean Continuing Resolution (CR), which funds the government at current spending levels until March 4.

The lame-duck Senate will vote on the new CR on Tuesday. To prevent a government shutdown, the CR has to pass the House and get signed by the President on Tuesday. 

McConnell used the leverage from the Midterm Elections and the minority’s filibuster power to block Reid from passing both an omnibus spending bill and a long-term CR. Both the Senate Democrats’ omnibus bill and the House Democrats’ long-term CR would have set government spending levels and priorities until October 1, 2011.

On Thursday, Reid yielded on government spending after McConnell rallied the votes against the $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill. The 1,924-page omnibus included over $1 billion for ObamaCare programs and $8.3 billion for 6,714 earmark spending programs.

In place of the omnibus, McConnell offered a one-page CR which funded the government through February 18. McConnell also said that the Senate Republicans would only accept a short-term CR so that the newly-elected Members of Congress and Senate could determine spending priorities.

“Once the new Congress is sworn in, we’ll have a chance to pass a less expensive bill free of wasteful spending,” said McConnell about his CR. “Until then, we should take a step back and respect the clear will of the voters.”

Reid was stymied to resolve the spending debate by the time the current CR expired on Saturday at midnight. In order to prevent a government shutdown, the Congressional Democrats passed a 3-day CR, which President Obama signed on Saturday afternoon.

By Sunday, Reid surrendered his goal to set the government’s funding for a year, and accepted the new 36-page, short-term CR. The new CR is clean of earmarks and new government spending programs.

The bill has some “anomalies”, which are amendments that keep programs from expiring or being severely disrupted. The anomalies in the new CR include:

* Pay freeze on civilian federal employees for 2011 and 2012

* Adjusts the amount available for operations of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

* Extends Department of Defense programs including counter-drug and counter-terrorism activities, and certain overseas contingency operations

* Funding to prevent significant scaling back of critical audits of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)

* Prevents elimination of over $4.3 billion of reduced-fee loans for small businesses

* Allows the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to make the usual annual adjustments in its fees

* Prevents rate increases on telecommunications companies that would be passed on to consumers

* Provides authority for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to sustain efforts to improve defenses against terrorist attacks

* Increases budget for the Veterans Benefits Administration by $460 million to prevent layoffs of claims processors

Outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also attempted a big government spending Hail Mary pass two weeks ago. The lame-duck House passed a CR which funded the government with Democratic spending priorities through September 30. The House CR was never brought up in the Senate.

The next Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has pledged to start cutting government spending levels immediately when Republicans take control of the House in January.

“It’s not enough…to just hold the line on spending. We need to cut spending. That’s what the American people want, and it’s what our economy needs,” said Boehner on Friday.

The House Republicans want to bring spending levels back to 2008 levels — before Obama started stimulating and Obamacare-ing his way through the taxpayers’ money.