5 Things For Progressives To Hate In The New Spending Bill
Congressional negotiators agreed Tuesday night on a $1 trillion bill to fund the government, apparently staving off a second shutdown in two years.
The 1,603-page bill is full of concessions from both sides, leaving the right wing of the Republican caucus wary — which means that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will almost certainly need significant Democratic support to pass it when it comes to the floor on Thursday.
That could be a problem. Like all massive spending bills, the current version is — as Senator John McCain (R-AZ) artfully put it — “jammed full of s**t.” And much of it has congressional liberals furious.
Here are five provisions of the spending bill that progressives will hate:
Buried on page 1,599 of the bill is a provision that would even further weaken the nation’s already ineffective campaign finance regulations. The measure would raise the amount that a single donor could give to a national party committee to $324,000 — 10 times more than currently allowed. Combined with the amounts that one could give to party campaign committees, a donor could legally contribute $1,553,200 in any two-year election cycle.
“This makes the Great Train Robbery look like a petty misdemeanor,” Fred Wertheimer, president of the pro-campaign finance reform advocacy group Democracy 21 said in a statement. “These provisions have never been considered by the House or Senate, and were never even publicly mentioned before today.”
“Republican and Democratic congressional leaders have entered into a Faustian bargain to return the massive corrupting contributions raised by federal officeholders for the national parties that Congress banned in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002,” he added. “It is no wonder that Congress has a 12 percent approval rating from the American people.”
The bill would also weaken financial reform, by altering a key section of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. As Mike Konczal spells out, the bill would eliminate a section of the law barring banks that receive federal insurance from dealing in the risky specialized derivatives market. The regulation was written “because having banks act as exotic swap dealers put taxpayers at risk in the event of a sudden collapse,” Konczal explains.
But big banks, which have long opposed the rule, successfully pushed to have it changed in the must-pass spending bill (the edit can be found on page 615). And that has angered the left.
“It is unacceptable to threaten a government shutdown in order to do the bidding of the biggest banks and put taxpayers on the hook again for their gambling losses,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. “We can keep the government open without these big money giveaways that hurt working families.”
In November, Washington D.C. voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative that would allow residents and visitors over the age of 21 to legally possess up to two ounces of marijuana. But congressional Republicans — who usually profess support for local governments that push back against onerous federal regulations — decided otherwise. A rider on page 213 of the spending bill bars D.C. from implementing its legalization law.
“It is disheartening and frustrating to learn that once again the District of Columbia is being used as a political pawn by the Congress,” pro-legalization D.C. Council member David Grosso told the Washington Post. “To undermine the vote of the people — taxpayers — does not foster or promote the ‘limited government’ stance House Republicans claim they stand for; it’s uninformed paternalistic meddling.”
Republicans delivered a big win for the energy industry on page 725 of the bill, in the form of a measure that would block the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Gunnison sage grouse or greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
As Katie Valentine explains at Think Progress, the measure is a gift to oil and gas companies which have hesitated to bid on leases to drill or frack in the birds’ habitat, due to concern that the grouse could soon gain greater protection.
Perhaps the oddest provision in the bill appears on page 963, where Congress declares that no funds may be given to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — better known as ACORN.
If that strikes you as odd, it may be because the community-organizing nonprofit shut down in 2010, after the backlash from a right-wing video hoax helped drive it into bankruptcy. But that hasn’t stopped Congress from officially banning it from receiving taxpayer money — more than a dozen times.
If nothing else, the provision should please the Republican base. After all, as of last year nearly half of GOP voters were under the impression that the nonexistent group stole the 2012 election for President Obama.