Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, unveiled a massive spending bill Tuesday that is loaded with earmarks for hundreds of lawmakers’ special projects, setting the stage for a bitter battle with Republicans in the final days of the lame-duck session.
Instead of following the lead of the House in passing a continuing resolution to freeze most federal programs at fiscal 2010 levels throughout the coming year, Inouye combined a dozen spending bills into a single $1.1 trillion omnibus package providing more in overall spending and loaded with earmarks that the Republicans have vowed to block.
“While I appreciate the work that the House has done in producing a full year Continuing Resolution, I do not believe that putting the government on autopilot for a full year is in the best interest of the American people,” Inouye said in a statement.
“As an example, who among us believes we should base our spending recommendations for defense, homeland security and veterans on whatever level was needed last year?” Inouye asked. “This omnibus measure is not perfect, but it represents a far superior alternative to the continuing resolution.”
Inouye noted the omnibus would cut $10.2 billion in “wasteful, poor-performing or terminated military programs” that the continuing resolution would not touch and redirect those funds to higher priority programs like Head Start, child care for lower-income families and the Coast Guard for maritime inspection.
But the omnibus will require 60 votes to pass the Senate and when it returns to the House it will face even stronger opposition from Republicans who felt even the simpler and less costly House approach did not cut spending enough and lasted too long.
Republicans wanted a short-term CR lasting only until February, when a new GOP majority in the House could try to fulfill their pledge to reduce federal spending to fiscal 2008 levels.
While the Senate omnibus would spend $29 billion less in fiscal 2011 than proposed by President Barack Obama, the House continuing resolution would have spent $46 billion less than Obama requested. That CR passed the House last week 212 to 206 with all affirmative votes coming from Democrats and 35 Democrats siding with Republicans against it. Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., complained that “rather than simply keeping the government running, this bill picks winners and losers among agencies and programs across the government.”
Lewis, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, warned that if the Senate approved an omnibus package loaded up with earmarks, House Republicans would be unanimous in opposing it. The Senate omnibus contains hundreds of earmarks -- such as $40 million to build a national biological agricultural defense research facility in Kansas, as requested by retiring Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and $20.5 million for the Dallas floodway extension, requested by GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn and Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, all of Texas.
“If President Obama is truly serious about ending earmarks, he should oppose Senate Democrats’ pork-laden omnibus spending bill and announce he will veto it if necessary. This bill represents exactly what the American people have rejected: more spending, more earmarks, and more big government,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“After neglecting to pass a budget and any of the thirteen annual spending bills this year, today we learn Senate Democrats now want to sandwich them together, totaling almost 2,000 pages, and jam them through in the waning moments of this lame duck session before anyone can read them,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Several of Cornyn’s earmarks are included in the omnibus.
Other major earmarks in the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee bill alone are $22.5 million for Corps of Engineers construction work in rural Utah, requested by GOP Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah; $19 million for similar construction in rural Nevada, requested by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and GOP Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, and $21 million for work on the Yazoo Basin in Mississippi, as requested by GOP Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
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