Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Ornaments on the Cromnibus Christmas Tree
President Obama signed the 1603 page $1.1 trillion Cromiibus (CR-Omnibus) Spending Bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi once said of ObamaCare: “We have to pass the bill so that you can know what’s in it.” It was presented to Congress for a vote on three days notice. So much for transparency! Major tax bills are known as “Christmas Trees” because of the hidden provisions, called “ornaments,” buried in them, often at the behest of lobbyists. The Cromnibus Spending Bill was crafted in a closed room by legislative leaders of both houses. It was presented to the House and Senate with little time to read it before voting. So much for transparency! Day by day, we are discovering the Christmas ornaments in it. Senator Ted Cruz was upset from the right because it fully funded ObamaCare and did nothing to stop President Obama’s Executive Order for amnesty for millions of immigrants. Senator Elizabeth Warren attacked it from the left because it reversed Dodd Frank by letting large banks trade in the derivatives market. Speaker Pelosi and other liberals were irate because it increased tenfold the permissible level for contributions to political parties. Conservatives should be happy. The Republican negotiators obtained substantial concessions for their constituency. The farm lobby proved more powerful than the environmentalists. EPA and the Corps had issued a draft “interpretation” of the jurisdiction of the federal government under the Clean Water Act. The draft would have substantially extend the power of the government. Cromnibus requires the agencies to withdraw the interpretation. The bill also forbad the EPA from requiring farmers to report “greenhouse gas emissions manure management systems.” Nor can it require greenhouse gas permits for methane emissions from bovine flatulence or belches. The EPA budget was cut by $60 million back to 1989 spending limits. The Department of the Interior was barred from listing the sage grouse as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Export-Import Bank was ordered to loan funds to companies to build coal powered plants overseas. The Department of Energy was barred from developing or enforcing new standards for new energy efficient light bulbs. The IRS was cut $345 million, with more to come next year. Nor did First Lady Michelle Obama’s food lunch restrictions fare well. The government was barred from mandating less salt in food lunches while schools can seek waivers from the whole grain requirements for pasta and tortillas. In the tradition of earmarks and pork barrel politics, funds were appropriated to expand Savannah Harbor and for a National Heritage Area in West Virginia. Relief was granted to non-profit Blue Shield and Blue Cross to preserve special breaks threatened by ObamaCare. Multi-unit pension plans were given the power to cut pension benefits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, on behalf of the hospitality industry, got funding for a marketing program for foreigners to visit the United States. $64 billion was appropriated to support overseas defense activities, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The Internet Tax Freedom Act was extended a year until next December. Cromnibus blocked the District of Columbia’s legalization of marijuana, but blocked the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana actors allowed under state laws. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah, and Festivus to all.