Editorials

Secretly-negotiated omnibus bill is no way to spend Americans’ money

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s statement Friday called Congress’ omnibus spending bill “a step toward moving through the regular order appropriations process.”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s statement Friday called Congress’ omnibus spending bill “a step toward moving through the regular order appropriations process.” AP

Friday morning, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas applauded passage of the massive $1.3 trillion dollar spending bill known as the omnibus.

“Today’s omnibus bill is a step toward moving through the regular order appropriations process,” his statement said.

This is Grade A, full-blown malarkey, as anyone following Washington clearly understands. A gargantuan, omnibus spending bill is about as far from “regular order” as you can get.

In the first place, it’s six months late. Congress is supposed to make spending decisions before the start of the fiscal year, in October. It failed to do that in 2017, as it has similarly failed in the past.

That failure routinely requires short-term spending bills known as continuing resolutions. Extending federal appropriations for a few weeks or months is a terrible way for Congress to disguise its ongoing dysfunction.

Second, Congress is supposed to consider spending bills individually. That means lawmakers can carefully study agriculture spending, or energy appropriations or defense outlays. The bills can be amended.

There are 12 appropriations measures introduced each year. This Congress didn’t pass a single one.

Instead, a half-year’s worth of spending is crammed into a secretly-negotiated, 2,200-page monstrosity offered as a take-it-or-leave it deal.

To her credit, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri voted no. “This is no way to govern,” she said in a statement.

Sens. Moran, Roy Blunt and Pat Roberts, all Republicans, voted yes. So did Reps. Kevin Yoder, Sam Graves and Vicky Hartzler, all Republicans, and Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat.

Most members issued statements after their yes votes, claiming credit for increased spending for one project or another — a local military base, rural broadband, opioid treatment and the like.

Much of that spending may be justified. But cramming it into one bill makes it impossible for voters to know if their representatives reflected their views or not. It’s like a restaurant piling its entire menu on your plate when you just want to sample the salad.

(Let’s not get started on President Donald Trump, whose views on the bill were indecipherable until he finally signed it Friday. The White House clearly played no role in how $1.3 trillion in taxes will be spent in the months ahead.)

Some Republicans opposed the omnibus because it adds to the federal deficit. Please. The party rammed through a massive, deficit-exploding tax cut last year. They weren’t worried about the deficit then.

“The combination of tax cuts and spending increases will likely lead to the return of trillion-dollar deficits in the next fiscal year and beyond,” The Concord Coalition said Friday.

That much red ink is horrible at any time, but it’s an unqualified disaster during full employment and a growing economy. Congress did the nation a disservice this week, one the American people will pay for for years.

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