In case you had something better to do last night than follow the most disgusting new holiday tradition in America, the annual “cromnibus” spending drama – a passion play of Big Government irresponsibility in which Congress waits until the absolute last possible minute to do their jobs, then screams “By Odin’s beard, the government is about to RUN OUT OF MONEY AND DIE!!!! We have to spend a trillion dollars RIGHT THIS INSTANT!” – the cromnibus bill managed to drag itself out of the House of Representatives, bleeding cash from a multitude of rider wounds, and is now heaving its corpulent body towards the Senate, where some Democrats have decided they do not like it very much.
After we finish this pathetic spectacle and pump that trillion dollars into Big Government’s veins, the unhappy Dems can commiserate with such dismayed Republicans as Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), who says the House Republican leadership straight-up lied to him to get his support for a test vote that might have killed the cromnibus bill. Stutzman says the cromnibus was supposed to survive the test vote, but then get pulled at the last minute and replaced with a far more sensible short-term bill that wouldn’t give the abject losers of the 2014 election control over the national purse until fall 2015. Instead, the cromnibus passed the House 219-206. Bazinga!
Republican “leaders” gave Barack Obama the sun, moon, stars, and amnesty, but that still wasn’t good enough for the Democrats who have decided to exploit the obvious weakness of GOP leaders and demand more. The GOP leadership, meanwhile, decided to dig in its heels on a banking de-regulation measure that would chip away at the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. Dodd-Frank is awful, and the regulation in question is a finicky bit of business that costs the private sector quite a bit of money, without really providing the sort of financial-meltdown protection it was supposed to, as explained by the Wall Street Journal:
The rule, commonly known as the ???swaps push-out??? provision, is seen by backers as a cornerstone of the law, since swaps???financial contracts that allow two parties to swap financial obligations, such as steady cash payments for floating interest rate payments???were at the heart of the financial crisis.
Banks have long opposed the rule, arguing it???s overly costly, hurts their clients???major industries such as utilities and airlines???and adds too much complexity in the financial system. For years, they???ve been fighting to roll it back. If the spending bill passes Congress and is signed by President Obama, they will have succeeded.
The question is, what???s really at stake?
First, some background. The Dodd-Frank law forces federally insured banks to hive off certain swaps trading activities into non-insured, separately capitalized affiliates of the bank holding company. The idea was to wall off the trading from the insured banking entity in order to protect taxpayers from credit meltdowns a la 2008, when giant banks such as Citigroup Inc. suffered billions in losses from toxic swaps deals tied to the moribund housing market.
That???s why the rule in focus is called ???Prohibition Against Federal Government Bailouts of Swaps Entities??? in the Dodd-Frank law.
But it also exempts a vast swath of the derivatives. Swaps tied to interest rates, foreign exchange, precious metals such as gold and silver and credit default swaps that are centrally cleared, a process regulators consider safer since clearinghouses takes on the risk of a default, are given a pass by the push-out requirement. Such contracts cover about 90% to 95% of banks??? swaps businesses, according to market experts and regulatory officials.
That means the brouhaha over the swaps push-out rule involves roughly 5% to 10% of banks??? activities. Those activities include swaps tied to stocks, certain credit default swaps, commodity-based swaps and so-called structured finance swaps.
Whatever the merits of removing this law might be, if you got through that excerpt without your eyes glazing over, you might be thinking that it’s not the sort of thing that would draw a lot of enthusiastic support from average folks, especially since the GOP leadership took a pass on fighting for the things they do care deeply about, such as stopping Barack Obama’s illegal amnesty program. There’s also a provision to roll back some campaign-finance restrictions that is easily caricatured as an effort to make it easier for fatcats to buy elections. Sensing an opportunity to score populist points, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) declared war on the cromnibus bill… and suddenly government shutdowns became awesome demonstrations of principled idealism, instead of outrageous acts of egotistical responsibility.
The double standard snapped into place with such force that anyone who remembers last year’s shutdown drama at all should sue the Democrat media for inducing whiplash. It’s little short of amazing to watch Warren collect olive wreaths from the same people who ran on-screen doomsday clocks, and pumped out stories about how temporarily shutting down a small part of the government would reduce the entire nation to smoking rubble and starving refugees, when the previous shutdown (which, in the dirty little secret our media gatekeepers of truth take pains not to mention, was actually initiated by the Democrats) was for a cause with far more popular support: stopping ObamaCare. Confused White House staffers must be asking President Obama if they should get the barricades out of storage and start walling off war memorials and national parks, if Elizabeth Warren shuts the government down.
Since her swooning media admirers will never remind you, here’s what Elizabeth Warren had to say about shutdowns last year, when she described them as “anarchy” and warned they would put the very lives of children at risk. (Hat tip: The Federalist.)
The cromnibus drama gave some other Democrats a golden opportunity to distance themselves from the unpopular President Obama, who knows just how many goodies Republican leaders stuffed into his cromnibus Christmas stocking, and has been lobbying Democrats hard to get the bill passed. He probably didn’t mind watching House Democrats roll the weak Speaker John Boehner, who put himself in the position of needing to buy Democrat support for a bill conservative Republicans wouldn’t support, but Obama’s patience with Warren’s antics is going to wear thin, because she might end up joining forces with Senate Republicans who oppose the cromnibus for different reasons – maybe even Senator Ted Cruz. The ultimate result could be a short-term funding bill that doesn’t neuter the incoming Republican majority for a year, and we can’t have that, now can we?
This might be a good time to remind the GOP brain trust that no matter how many concessions you make to the Party of Losers in a long-term cromnibus spending bill, you will still get blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong next year. You’ll get to sit on Sunday talk shows and sputter helplessly about how you did a long-term bill with your Democrat partners that preserved the entire Obama agenda, but it won’t matter. You’ve set up 2015 to be a year in which you have no real power, but will still take the blame for everything because you nominally control both houses of Congress. That will come after a lame-duck disaster in which you created a perfect political narrative for Democrats: giving Warren a lovely launch pad for her “populist” presidential campaign as you refuse to fight for things your constituents want, but dig in for things you might be able to explain to them, provided they’re willing to let you read a 50-page white paper at your next press conference. You’re simultaneously making 2016 more difficult for your own top presidential contenders, who might be obliged to run against their own party’s congressional leadership in order to connect with the conservative base. And the financial interests you decided to fight for are big contributors to Democrats.
Brilliant, gentlemen, really brilliant. It’s like watching a football game where one team racks up a bunch of points and leaves the stadium at the end of the third quarter… and the other team still manages to score a safety against itself five minutes later.
Update: What better illustration of the GOP leadership’s drive to render itself obsolete could there be than Senator Warren quoting approvingly from a RedState column, in which conservative writer Leon H. Wolf conceded that Democrats represent conservative voters on the cromnibus better than the Republican grand poobahs do?
Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ), who were among the “no” votes, went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show last night to say that Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy ignored conservatives and got in touch with his partner Barack Obama to whip up Democrat votes for the cromnibus. If the GOP leadership devised a plan to deliberately warp the energy of their own midterm election victory into a weapon that would destroy the Republican Party, what would they be doing differently? Even as Democrats eagerly seize on the cromnibus battle to desert the sinking Obama ship and set up their 2016 campaign, Boehner is booking staterooms for the GOP leadership on the Obama Titanic and volunteering to play lead violin as the waters rise.
Update: For the most extreme whack-job example of the shutdown double standard, look no further than MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who thought last year’s shutdown was “terrorism” and an “attempt to destroy all we know of as the republican form of government in this country,” but is currently slobbering over Elizabeth Warren as a “revolutionary” and hailing her shutdown threat as “good for the country.”
Sure, he’s a loon (and couldn’t have been more comprehensively wrong last year in describing the power of the purse as an attempt to destroy republican government, rather than an exercise of it) but he’s captured the hypocrisy of the Democrat media perfectly. I couldn’t have done better than Matthews’ actual words if I had sat down to write a satire about all this.