No, The Omnibus Appropriation Is Not A Reason To Celebrate
Keep these things in mind if you're thinking about popping a cork or two to celebrate Congress passing an omnibus appropriation over the next week that will keep the federal government open for business through the rest of fiscal 2014:
- An omnibus appropriation is indeed a step up from the continuing resolutions of the recent past, but it is a big step down from what Congress actually is supposed to do by passing 12 individual appropriations. That's still wishful thinking or fantasy.
- Passing appropriations is supposed to be something Congress does every year. Doing it once every few years is not a milestone of any kind.
- The House is voting on a multi-hundred page bill that it has only had a chance to review for one and a half days. This is the same House that made the inability to review the Obamacare legislation a major issue. Because of its length and the limited amount of time they have to review it, House members cannot possibly know what they are voting on.
- The same will be true in the Senate. Even with the few more days the Senate will have because it goes second, few, if any senators will know what they are voting for...or against.
- Congress could have given itself a few extra days to do this right by passing a continuing resolution for a week rather than just three days and taking the time to debate and adopt the omnibus with more than a cursory review. While it may be a step forward in terms of a continuing vs an omnibus, it's a step backward in terms of legislative branch responsibility.
Finally, the omnibus bill may have bi-partisan support, but this is anything but the beginning of a new era of budget bipartisanship. This bill is relatively easy to consider because Republican appropriators will join with most House Democrats to create a one-of-a-kind coalition that won't be duplicated on other budget legislation. The GOP leadership had something with this bill that it hasn't had on almost any other issue: the ability to reward or punish its members with more or less spending on pet projects. Plus, even though the spending in this bill obviously contributes to the deficit, the bill itself doesn't require a vote on the deficit or national debt. That is making it much easier for some members in both houses to support it.
Trust me, this bill is not a harbinger of the future. It will be as difficult for Congress to adopt a budget resolution this year as it has been the past few years.