By Cromnibus! The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Massive New $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill



To get an idea of just how massively lame our federal government's budget arguments can be, it's worth looking over The New York Times' coverage of the budget wrangling that led up to the release last night of the $1.1 trillion "cromnibus" spending bill that's now expected to pass, keeping the government open while spending tons of taxpayer money on Stuff Government People Like.

One Times story, released late on Monday as the details of the deal were coming into view, framed the budget deal as a sort of trade-off: Republicans would agree to avoid a shutdown, but in exchange, they would "extract a policy price from Democrats." What did the GOP want out of the deal? The relaxation of "standards on school lunch content and the Environmental Protection Agency's jurisdiction over some bodies of water." These fights, the story explained, were "more contentious than the negotiations over money." Forget overall spending levels, right? These are the sorts of high-stakes policy battles consuming the nation's capitol.

The bill's complete text was finally released last night. It combines 11 appropriations bills (an omnibus) with a short-term continuing resolution (CR) just for the Department of Homeland security (omnibus plus).

I don't recommend reading it. Those who do will find a 1,600-odd page guide to how to spend more than $1 trillion other people's money (not like anyone in Congress really needs one). 

Naturally, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and his Democratic partner in the Senate, Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) released a joint statement of self-congratulation. "While not everyone got everything they wanted," the pair said, "such compromises must be made in a divided government. These are the tough choices that we must make to govern responsibly and do what the American people sent us here to do."

It's not all terrible. But it's not great either. Here's a roundup of some highlights and lowlights from the proposal:

The Good:

The bill reins in Obamacare's risk corridors—widely known as its insurance industry bailouts—requiring them to be budget neutral. The Obama administration can still pay insurers under the plan, but only from the insurer user fees that are paid in, and not from slush funds like Obamacare's public health and prevention fund. 

The bill cuts the budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency by $60 million and the Internal Revenue Service by $345 million. It holds the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) budget flat for the fourth year in a row. 

The Bad:

Technically, the cromnibus sticks to the spending caps in last year's Ryan-Murray budget deal, coming in at around $1.01 trillion. That deal, however, was itself a way of subtly weakening existing spending caps that had been put in place through the sequestration process. But the bill also includes an additional $64 billion in overseas contingency funding for the military, as well $5 billion in emergency funding to pay for recently ramped up military operations (war) against ISIS. There's also another $5.4 billion to fund Ebola operations.

Naturally, with so much money in play, the bloated bill is packed full of goodies—or, as Sen. John McCain put it, it's "jammed full of shit." You can see for yourself by perusing the Senate Appropriations Committee summary: $25 million for "school meal equipment grants," $1.7 billion in "water and waste loans and grants," a $37 million increase in funding for the Food and Drug Administration, $6.1 billion in ownership and operating loans to farmers, $871 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection service (an increase of $49 million), an $81 million increase in FBI salaries and a $21 million pay bump at the Drug Enforcement Agency, $7 million in new anti-heroin funding, $3.2 billion to improve federal weather prediction, $141 million for a "next generation computing" program at the Department of Energy, a $53 million bump—up to $2.61 billion—for the National Park Service. There's more, so much more—1,603 pages worth, to be precise. Maybe some of it is worth doing, but the rolled-into-one omnibus approach means that Congress will be trying to pass it all at once in a two-day period, ensuring a scattered focus on trivial political point-scoring rather than a measured consideration of the overall merits of any proposal  

The Ugly:

The spending bill shuts down the District of Columbia's plan to legalize pot, which the city's residents overwhelmingly favored in a November vote. According to a summary released by the House Appropriations Committee, the bill "prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District." There's plenty of stupid, petty stuff buried in the spending plan, but this might be the stupidest, pettiest item of all.

NEXT: Ronald Bailey Explains How Obama Might Get Away With Imposing Greenhouse Gas Limits on the U.S.

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  1. This entire post could’ve been summarized in four words:

    Same shit, different day.

  2. and do what the American people sent us here to do

    To steal peoples money and spend it on things that only benefits them and their cronies while screwing over the American people once again?

    I have a feeling that most of those people who sent them there would not agree with that assessment.

    1. Hey – no more gridlock, that’s what we all wanted, right? Right?

    2. I believe anyone that voted believing otherwise is probably a fool.

  3. “No, fuck you, cut spending.”

    1. We lost when it became considered a “cut” to not spend as much as you initially planned to spend.

      1. “No, fuck you, cut spending.”

        1. You don’t understand. These words, they have no meaning.

          1. “No, fuck you, cut spending.”

            1. Ok, we’ll only spend $1 trillion more than last year.

              1. Give me a blowtorch and the budget, and I’ll show them how to reduce overall spending.

                1. Is it by cutting some nuts off with the blowtorch while wiping your ass with the budget? Cause if not, I’m out.

              2. Won’t someone please think of the stimulus.

                1. I am more than sufficiently stimulated right now, thank you!

  4. The important thing is that the Republicans didn’t oppose the spending.

    Because that would disrupt the spending.

    1. In the end, we must spend the money to find out if we have it.

      1. If you didn’t spend it, how would you know it existed!?

        1. Exactly. In fact, I posit that the money doesn’t actually exist until we spend it. Therefore, by not spending it, we’re denying Americans access to vast and needed resources.

          1. We’ve gone from fiat money to Schrodinger money.

            1. Were they ever not one and the same?

          2. Therefore, by not spending it, we’re denying Americans access to vast and needed resources.

            While the humour in this post is obviously obvious, this is EXACTLY the argument made by Paul Krugman. Exactly. And there’s nothing funny about Krugman. Nothing.

            1. It really highlights how much he has literally–literally, mind you–become a joke.

              1. I have to wonder if Friedrich Hayek was looking directly at a young Paul Krugman (seeing all that “potential”) when he said that there should be no such thing as a Nobel Prize in Economics.

          3. In fact, I posit that the money doesn’t actually exist until we spend it.

            For the debt-financed part of the budget, this is literally and precisely true.

            When the Fed clears Treasury auctions, it literally creates the money that is used to buy the Treasury debt at those auctions.

            1. Yes, I was being a bit coy with that joke, as it is true. Which makes it even stupider.

      2. But we owe the money to ourselves! So it’s not really debt!


        1. If I loan myself money to buy a jet-ski despite living nowhere near water, then when I (the lender I) realize that I need money, and I call the loan I gave myself, but I the borrower has no money, then what? I seize other me’s assets, the jet ski, sell it at 50% of what I originally loaned other me, then I have 50% of my original money because I overestimated the value of a jet ski, and my own real purchasing power…

          Then, profit? I’m confused. Is this when I start trying to use my own feces as currency at the grocery store?

  5. By Grabthar’s Hammer, what a savings!

  6. The spending bill shuts down the District of Columbia’s plan to legalize pot, which the city’s residents overwhelmingly favored in a November vote.

    I’m sure that House Republicans will undo it, since I have it on good authority that Republicans believe in smaller and less intrusive government, in local autonomy, and in letting the voters decide controversial social issues. Right? Right?

    1. Their version of small government is better than the Progressives’ view of small government.

    2. I don’t think they have changed the decriminalization aspect, just no funding for licensing and regulation…HA!

      1. So does that mean they left a window open for private funding and private regulation?

  7. $6.1 billion in ownership and operating loans to farmers

    WTFF??! Every farmer around me is rolling in dough – they have had such great years, the past two, that they cannot even find room to store everything they have hauled in from these here fruited plains….and they get my money??!?!?!


  8. Cromnibus will extend the ban on Internet access taxes for another year so that a good thing, although a permanent ban would be much more ideal.

  9. It combines 11 appropriations bills (an omnibus) with a short-term continuing resolution (CR) just for the Department of Homeland security (omnibus plus).

    Here I thought it was a clever portmanteau of crony and omnibus. 🙁

    I can’t be the only one!

    1. I thought it had something to do with Krampus.

  10. the bill “prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.”

    I’m not seeing how that blocks the referendum. All DC has to do is announce that it will comply with the referendum to the extent it can without spending any money by ceasing to enforce the laws that were overturned by the referendum.

    1. How would Congress enforce this edict, anyway? What if DC just goes right ahead and complies with the referendum? Congress can’t unspend whatever actually gets spent, so what would they do?

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    Try this web-site ::::: http://www.jobsfish.com

  12. The republican party must be destroyed.

  13. The bill reins in Obamacare’s risk corridors?widely known as its insurance industry bailouts?requiring them to be budget neutral.
    Good thing there are no slush funds, White House scofflaws, broken HHS calculators that lump together dental and medical plans, insurance industry thumb-breakers, or compassionate conservatives who are willing to make an arrangement at the last minute.

  14. It’s lame, but I’m honestly glad we could get even the good stuff there was in this thing. Also, this doesn’t block DC’s decriminalization. It’s just Harris’s impotent tantrum.

    1. It gives the thugs and goons in the DC government cover for business as usual in pot enforcement.

      And that’s what really matter here. Not what people voted for. Not what the law actually requires or prohibits.

      What matters is making sure the thugs and goons can do what they want.

      Mission accomplished, TEAM BE RULED!

      1. How does not spending money accomplish that?

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  17. There’s much more to discuss in the “Ugly” section than pot. Another subtle package in this deal is a substantial increase in private political donations. According to the stories that I’ve seen reported, wealthy donors can now ‘give three times the annual cap on national party donations to three additional party committees set up for the purposes of the presidential conventions, building expenses and election recounts.’ Basically, the price for a congressional seat just went up, thus ensuring only the wealthiest and most connected get to run this country. So much for “by the people, for the people”.

    I admit, pot is cool and all, but this seems much more ‘ugly’ than the D.C. legalization issue.

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