The Yuletide Shutdown Shuffle

You would think that a titanic $3.6 trillion government – whose acolytes cry endlessly for higher taxes and more spending, while the high priests declare themselves more fit to run every business in the land than any private citizen – would run on a carefully constructed budget.  Alas, it has been 2 years, 7 months, and 4 days since our Democrat-controlled Senate passed a budget, so the same people who maintain with fanatical intensity that centralized control of everything is superior to economic liberty keep winging it with a series of temporary measures.

The most recent trillion-dollar cocktail napkin is due to expire in a couple of weeks, so it’s time to do the Shutdown Shuffle again, as reported by Chad Pergram of Fox News:

Another potential government shutdown is looming if Congress isn’t able to scramble soon and cobble together a big omnibus spending bill to keep the government open past Dec. 16.

The current stopgap measure expires then. And only three of the 12 annual spending bills which run the federal government have been approved and signed into law.

That means House and Senate appropriators are putting together a massive, omnibus spending bill which they hope to have prepared by Dec. 15. This would not be an interim bill, better known in Capitol Hill-ese as a Continuing Resolution, or CR, which funds government in increments while the regular appropriations bills are negotiated.

This would simply allocate money for the remainder of currently unfunded government programs through Sept. 30, 2012. I am told that House appropriators are resistant to attaching any extraneous issues to this omnibus bill … such as unemployment insurance (UI), a payroll tax holiday, the alternative minimum tax (AMT) or the “doc fix” for Medicare.

That’s what America really needs right now: a nice “clean” spending bill that will let the government keep throwing out bales of cash, without any pretense of restraint or reform.  The Republican leadership is apparently anxious to avoid a shutdown drama, perhaps fearful of giving President Obama any more fuel for his “do-nothing Congress” 2012 campaign, and has surrendered to the irresistible momentum of Big Government growth:

What is significant here is that House Speaker John Boehner and GOP appropriators are turning their attention away from conservative Republicans who want to cut spending more and are insisting on a host of social riders in the spending bills, such as defunding health care reform, slashing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and National Labor Relations Board, eliminating aid for Pakistan and abortion.

Boehner, R-Ohio, knows that he can’t sate his conservative base in the House any more when it comes to these issues. So he’s willing to go punt and team with Democrats (which will drive the right nuts) to keep the government open.

A lot of the pressure for this Yuletide spirit of big-spending fellowship is coming from the Appropriations Committee, which is looking to regain its power and influence, as explained by Daniel Horowitz at Red State:

This is exactly what transpired with the so-called minibus bill.  The Republican-controlled House passed an agriculture appropriations bill that breached the spending caps of their own budget, but nonetheless remained within the confines of the spending levels established under the Budget Control Act.  The Senate, after failing to pass a budget for over 900 days, tacked on two other appropriations bills that funded four other departments, and sent them straight to conference committee without the House ever voting on two-thirds of the bill.  They added in more food stamps spending, $2.3 billion in non-offset disaster spending, and gutted all Republican policy riders. 

Then the bipartisan College of Cardinals went to conference committee for a compromise.  This “compromise” contained even more spending on WIC and international food aid, and added a provision, which was inserted into the conference report, to expand the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

(Emphases mine.)  So much for that pesky Budget Control Act, eh?  Apparently its primary effect will be keeping the initial House budget proposals down to manageable size, before they get slathered with lard and pork.

I’m sure Americans weary of epic Big Government failure will be delighted to know the roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are being expanded.  The Tea Party will be so happy that it worked so hard to put the House into Republican hands.

Speaking of Fannie and Freddie, do you remember how upset everyone was about the gigantic bonuses paid to executives of those bankrupt, bailout-hungry pseudo-corporations?  Well, the executives were so hurt by your outrage that they spent $640,000 to cheer themselves up by swanking around at a mortgage industry conference in Chicago.  That includes $74,000 for “invitation-only dinners for mortgage-lending companies that do business with Fannie and Freddie.”  It’s wonderful that such austere, fiscally conscious outfit will soon have an “expanded role” in our lives.

According to The Hill, some conservative Republicans think this new omnibus bill, which could end up costing $1.4 trillion, will illustrate the hopeless, spendaholic nature of the current Congress, along with the absurdity of trying to control it with penny-ante agreements like the Budget Control Act of 2011:

Conservative GOP aides say a massive omnibus package would starkly illustrate how much money Congress continues to spend after the negotiations of April and July, which averted a government shutdown and national default.

“If we can’t cut discretionary spending compared to the prior year when state and local governments are slashing budgets big time, if we concede we can’t lower our budget at all, I don’t think voters will find that acceptable, especially when we Republicans made so many promises,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an outspoken conservative who is running for the Senate.

Flake, who for years was an antagonist of the House Appropriations Committee, joined the panel at the beginning of the year to keep closer tabs on its work. 

[…] A GOP aide said House and Senate conservatives prefer an omnibus to several minibuses because it gives them a big target to attack. 

“It brings all the attention to it and it becomes a big spending fight,” said a conservative GOP aide. “Appropriators hate the omnibus because it shows to the public the amount we’re spending. It’s an easier target.

They’d better start attacking that target with gusto, and reminding voters at every opportunity that these gigantic omnibus bills keep rolling down the highway to insolvency because the Democrat Senate can’t pass a budget.  The Tea Party is going to be very skeptical that another $1.4 trillion in off-the-rails spending was needed to prove the point that Congress can’t control its high-rolling urges.  They already knew that when they wrote the 2010 Republican landslide into the history books.