Omnibus or CR: Sausage Making at its Wurst

An old cliche says that there are two things you should not watch being made--sausage and legislation. But right now, people should be watching the end-of-year process being used to allow the federal government to pay its bills. Then they'll know why we are in such a fiscal mess. Here's the current state of play:

  • The House has passed a hybrid bill that would fund the federal government at its current level of $1.09 trillion, $46 billion less than President Obama's budget request. The bill is a hybrid because Continuing Resolutions, which most often fund the government at last year's levels, usually don't rejigger funds. This bill, which the House narrowly passed, 212-206, increases funding for select programs.
  • The Senate, on the other hand, has pending a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that is higher than the House bill and rejiggers funding for more programs. However, the Senate bill also includes some $8 billion in earmarks for projects for specific Senators, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.  Many of those projects are for Senators who recently went on record as favoring a ban on earmarks. Clearly, leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee have put those Senators in a pickle. Some have gone so far as to say they will vote against the bill--essentially voting against projects in their home states.
  • Whatever happens, the House and Senate still will have to reconcile differences between their bills.

Meanwhile, as Congress fiddles, the current Continuing Resolution funding the federal government expires Dec. 18, so the House and Senate may have to pass another short-term resolution.

As we've said before, this is no way for Congress and the President to fund the federal government. Is it any wonder that we are so far in debt. The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform recently called on policymakers to adopt a new process that would make budget-writing far more rational. It may not solve the debt problem overnight, but at least it would make the sausage-making more Kosher.