Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Congress’ Omnibus Spending Bill

The House and Senate this week are expected to pass a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government through September 2015.

The following statements from public policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.

“The tragedy of this bill is not that it is 1,603 pages long; not that it purports to spend an additional $1.1 trillion dollars, all of which will have to be borrowed and paid back – with interest – by the taxpayers; and not that it includes such nonsense as $898,000 for ‘necessary expenses of the Office of the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Program.’ Nor is the tragedy that it plainly reflects cynical partisan political calculations about how and when to vote for what.

“The tragedy is that this now-routine practice of funding the United States government by means of a ‘Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act’ instead of an actual budget makes a mockery of the spirit, if not the letter of the law, of the Constitution. Article I, Section 9 plainly provides that ‘No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law;’ and that a ‘regular Statement of Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.’

“Surely this is not what the Framers had in mind, and the taxpayers and the voters of this country deserve much better.”

David L. Applegate
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“It’s a $1.1 trillion spending package, but it slashes spending for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service, cuts funding for the ‘e-card check’ program of the National Labor Relations Board, and prevents EPA from expanding the Clean Water Act to farm ditches and ponds. Maybe everything in this bill isn’t terrible, after all.”

Jesse Hathaway
Managing Editor
Budget & Tax News
Research Fellow
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“Congressional Republicans are losing too much leverage in these budget extension fights by conceding that they will get the public blame for any shutdown, especially given the Democrats’ strategy to engineer a shutdown if they don’t get what they want. Republicans need a strategy to focus budget standoffs on issues where Democrats are enormously vulnerable to public opinion, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline.

“Conservatives and free-market activists need a better strategy than simply blaming Republicans for what Democrats have done, because Republicans have failed to stop or reverse the Democratic policies. Who is criticizing today’s Democrats for their increasingly extremist embrace of Saul Alinsky-style Marxism? Not today’s conservatives and free market activists.

“That failure is not all just the fault of congressional Republicans, who have won historic victories in shutting down the Democratic spending machine – even with just the 2010 House majority – but they get zero credit for that from conservatives and free-market activists, who also can and should be a lot more effective. Conservatives need to recognize as well that this funding bill is being negotiated with the Democrat Senate majority of the last Congress. Republicans can gain a lot of leverage in future budget battles by restoring regular budget order to the process, going back to full-budget resolutions and orderly appropriation bills. But Republicans can’t get that done during this lame duck session. Passing a necessary funding bill now until the end of September, when the next budget year starts, would help in restoring that regular order.”

Peter Ferrara
Senior Fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“By all accounts, the spending bill is stuffed with pork, therefore, the big winners are the Democrats. If we’re to have pork, let it be done by the porkmeisters, not by the Republicans. They’re just not good enough. What the Republicans did have, however, was a recent reputation for financial probity, which the Tea Party Congress of 2011 provided through its ban on earmarks. So much for that.”

F.H. Buckley
Foundation Professor of Law
George Mason University School of Law
[email protected]

“Surely we have learned by now of the evil of all omnibus spending bills. Corrupt politicians throw in all kinds of things that would never pass on honest debate. Lame ducks should pass a simple continuing resolution, extending current funding – and no more – for three or four months until the new Congress is sworn in. The politicians just rejected by the voters should not be binding those who have a new mandate to cut spending, protect our borders, and repeal Obamacare. Republican ‘leaders’ who defy the electorate should also be replaced.”

Jane M. Orient, M.D.
Executive Director
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
[email protected]

“Hopefully, the proposed $1.1 trillion spending bill will be the last major act of the 113th Congress. Thanks to the Senate, the 113th Congress failed to address the disastrous policies of the 112th Congress and continued many of these policies, as well as the misallocation of federal funds to implement them. “As of now, the massive subsidies for unreliable solar and wind generation of electricity remain. Reliable electricity is the hallmark of civilization. Medical facilities, buildings, elevators, subways, traffic lights, etc. cannot properly work without reliable electricity. No one – not Germany, the UK, the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, etc. – has developed a way to make electricity from solar and wind reliable without special conditions. Yet, the federal government continues to pour billions of dollars in deploying a form of electricity generation that Americans cannot depend on.

“The one bright spot in the U.S. economy is occurring in spite of government spending, not because of it. Oil and natural gas production have skyrocketed, making the U.S. a world leader in both oil and gas, after years of predictions of continued decline. The production increases are occurring on private and state-owned lands, not federal lands and waters where Washington, DC continues to thwart oil and gas development and production. At least the proposed budget prohibits the funding of one of the latest ploys by Washington, DC to stop oil and gas development on private and state-owned lands – the listing of four species of sage-grouse as threatened or endangered. Perhaps this the start of a needed trend to stop environmental zealots who have become very powerful, almost dictatorial, in federal agencies.

Kenneth Haapala
Executive Vice President
Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
[email protected]

“This so-called ‘cromnibus’ bill is just a continuation of the irresponsible budget process that has been in effect throughout the past six years, first the stimulus, then a continuing resolution, and now more of the same because the Republicans are afraid of a shutdown – and also secretly like the borrowing and spending spree that started when George W. Bush was president. “Cromnibus is irresponsible and corrupt, but it reflects the attitude of career politicians on both sides of the aisle: They like to spend because there is always an active and noisy constituency that will promise them support for reelection. When spending is irresponsible, it is funded with currency manipulation and borrowing. The spendthrifts spend today and fund it with borrowing. They have no shame. No one represents the interests of the taxpayer and promotes responsible spending when the noisy factions, particularly the government employees and rent seekers, are at the trough.”

Dr. John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D.
Policy Advisor, Health Care
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“Barely a month after their crushing victory and with two years until the next election, Republicans seem intent to support and restart harmful policies and programs that they complained about when Democrats were in charge. It seems the budget bill will put the wind power production tax credit (PTC) back in place, both retroactively subsidizing wind farms that began construction during the past year when the subsidy had lapsed and for two more years. This is one of the biggest boondoggles in the budget bill. Why Republicans would support the restarting of the PTC they complained about for years, when in just the past year they were victorious in letting it lapse, is inexplicable.

“Wind farms produce only a fraction of the power promised, destroy huge amounts of wild land, kill birds and bats by the thousands, create reliability problems and huge inefficiencies for the electric power grid, and cost taxpayers and electric power consumers billions of dollars. Wind power subsidies are good for only one thing: lining the pockets of the politically connected billionaires who profit from them and the politicians who receive political donations for supporting them.”

H. Sterling Burnett
Research Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News
[email protected]

“In government, we must make compromises. The proposed budget compromise is a good one because it reduces some spending, generally stays within the spending caps agreed to in the past year, and keeps the government running. Next year (i.e., next month), the new Congress will look more closely at those issues that this budget postpones. In the meantime, we can have a Christmas truce of sorts.”

Ronald D. Rotunda
The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence
Chapman University
[email protected]

“The ‘cromnibus’ bill that requires the president’s signature by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday evening is pegged at $1.1 trillion dollars to fund the operation of the U.S. government until September 2015. There are some exemptions designed to defund Obama’s ‘amnesty’ program and to ensure that Americans can still purchase incandescent light bulbs in the years ahead. The issue that the bill does not address is the nation’s $18 trillion debt and the billions that must be paid on the interest to avoid default. “Some $6 trillion of that debt has been added over the course of Obama’s two terms to date. This is historically the highest debt the nation has ever had, and it reflects the other historic reduction in the nation’s credit rating. Does the bill take an aggressive approach to reducing government spending? No. What it does is fund the continuing wastefulness that has come to define the way the federal government operates. The bill, another thousand-plus page monster that even members of Congress have likely not read, serves as testimony to the failure to budget and govern in a manner that will not continue to put the nation at risk of a financial collapse that would ruin the lives of Americans and generate international financial anarchy.”

Alan Caruba
Founder, The National Anxiety Center
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our website or call 312/377-4000.