As recession-weary Americans continue to tighten their belts, not even trillion-dollar deficits can persuade Senate Democrats to stop their spending spree. In a single 1,924-page bill—which was crafted in secret and will be voted on before anyone has read it fully—Congress is set to spend a staggering $1.1 trillion on discretionary programs for fiscal year (FY) 2011, plus an additional $160 billion in emergency war spending.
To put this in context, non-emergency discretionary spending has already surged by $217 billion (25 percent) in the past three years—plus an additional $311 billion from the failed “stimulus.” Rather than pare back those unsustainable spending hikes, this bill would pile on a $17 billion increase that exceeds even the House’s massive spending bill.
This is exactly the kind of secretive, pork-laden, massive spending bill that induced a voter revolt last month. This brazen rejection of transparency and fiscal responsibility is a major reason why federal spending has soared to $30,000 per household (a post–World War II record of nearly 25 percent of the economy) and created trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.
The Ugly Details
The Senate omnibus bill’s offenses go well beyond its overall cost and size. It would spend more than $1 billion to begin implementing the unpopular and unaffordable Obamacare law, which a federal court has ruled unconstitutional. The bill also includes a number of anti-energy policies that make it unnecessarily difficult to tap into America’s domestic energy supply, wastes $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars on climate change initiatives, and defunds activities for vital nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain.
And, in what has become a grand holiday tradition, the Senate stuffed the bill with more than 6,000 earmarks, including:
- $450,000 for the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa;
- $500,000 for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston;
- $100,000 for YouthCare in Seattle;
- $550,000 to rehabilitate Beacham Street in Massachusetts;
- $300,000 to renovate the Josephine Bakhita House in Wilmington, Delaware;
- $150,000 to renovate the Tibbits Opera House in Michigan;
- $500,000 for streetscaping in Porter County, Indiana;
- $200,000 to install solar panels at the Community Food Bank, Inc., in Arizona;
- $700,000 to reconstruct Norwood Drive in Pennsylvania;
- $500,000 for Denver Bike Sharing;
- 100,000 for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Transportation Museum in Columbus, Mississippi;
- $3.5 million to research Formosan Subterranean Termites in New Orleans;
- $1 million for peanut research in Athens and Tifton, Georgia;
- $500,000 for oyster safety in Florida;
- $600,000 for the Lewis and Clark Legacy Trail in North Dakota;
- $750,000 for the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Project in California;
- $125,000 to develop a walking trail in Mississippi;
- $2 million for an Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin;
- $250,000 for Pigeon Point Lighthouse in California; and
While fully funding Obamacare and earmarks, the Senate once again failed to find to room to adequately fund defense. This risks leaving our troops ill prepared to defend the nation at home and abroad.
What Congress Should Do
Congress should end the era of massive, pork-laden omnibus spending bills and finally bring runaway spending under control. They can start by passing a continuing resolution that (at the most) freezes FY 2011 discretionary spending at the FY 2010 level. The next Congress can then immediately get to work enacting rescission bills for 2011 to cut spending and adequately fund defense and quickly move to writing a responsible FY 2012 federal budget.
In the meantime, the FY 2011 continuing resolution should be one page long, stating that current spending levels shall continue. Prior to a vote, the Congressional Budget Office should verify that the bill does not (a) shift funding to new Democratic priorities, (b) include advanced appropriations binding future Congresses to spend money, or (c) include unrelated government expansions and regulations. Anything less represents a return to the irresponsible politics of usual and continues the federal budget down the road to crippling deficits and tax hikes.
Update: The Heritage Foundation has posted the full text of the bill.