With the government shutdown clock once again ticking, last night Congress was able to shove some electrodes into its trillion-dollar, 1200-page omnibus spending bill, catch a bolt of conference lightning, and raise the creature from their table. Americans can enjoy their holidays in comfort, knowing they’ll get to spend bundles of money on whatever delights are packed into that bill… until it drops dead nine months from now, and we get to relive the shutdown drama again. Thus does our federal titan plod unsteadily through history.
The Hill relates the tense last-minute negotiations:
Republican leaders claimed they had a hand-shake agreement earlier in the week, but they said Democratic negotiators refused to sign off because the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) held up the agreement to gain leverage in a separate year-end dispute over the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.
Democrats said some issues remained unresolved, including travel restrictions with Cuba. According to House Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), a rider preventing Cuban-Americans from traveling to Cuba was removed from the package as part of the final bill. Riders preventing the District of Columbia from funding abortions and stopping a forced transition from incandescent light bulbs were left in the bill after the final round of talks.
“While the final bill may not be perfect, it nevertheless reflects a compromise that clearly resulted from the direct involvement of all of the Ranking Democratic Members, and thus I intend to support it,” Dicks said in a statement.
(Emphasis mine.) Well, at least we get to keep our incandescent light bulbs a bit longer. Except, as the Washington Post reported in September, “the last major GE factory making ordinary incandescent light bulbs in the United States” just closed, “marking a small, sad exit for a product and company that can trace their roots to Thomas Alva Edison’s innovations in the 1870s.” About two hundred workers made their small, sad exits when the factory closed. No big deal! I’m sure they still make incandescent bulbs somewhere.
Funding the government in a series of desperate last-minute scrambles, in which the omnibus comes up on two wheels and narrowly avoids tumbling off the shutdown cliff, doesn’t seem like the best way to handle the business of responsibly spending the peoples’ money. We used to have these things called “budgets.” They were also pork-riddled monstrosities assembled in the shadows, but at least the process was a bit more… stately. But this is a new century, and things are more exciting here.