Lawmakers agreed last night to a $1 trillion omnibus spending package, which will fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, until September 30, 2012. The agreement eliminates some but not all of the policy riders that Republicans coveted in the deal.
A deal on a $1 trillion spending bill was reached after Republicans agreed to drop language that would have blocked President Barack Obama’s liberalized rules on people who visit and send money to relatives in Cuba. But a GOP provision will stay in the bill thwarting an Obama administration rule on energy efficiency standards that critics argued would make it hard for people to purchase inexpensive incandescent light bulbs.
That’s right, the ridiculous “save the light bulb” bill will become law when the spending bill passes. The incandescent bulb was never banned by the old regulations, and companies voluntarily agreed to improve the energy efficiency of their light bulbs, but I guess the rubes will get their way on this one. Of far more importance is a bill continuing the ban on funding for abortions in Washington, DC, which also appears to have survived. The Democratic Party and the President have really shown their interest in women’s health over these past couple weeks. I’m glad that the new rules on Cuban travel and remittances will not get rolled back; apparently this was at the insistence of the White House. But young women in DC didn’t have such a champion.
Overall, the spending bill, which actually was agreed to by appropriators over last weekend, funds the government at the level agreed to by the debt limit deal, with an additional $8 billion in emergency disaster spending allocated (also per agreement, but to the dismay of many conservatives). The real breakthrough was the de-linking of the spending bill with the payroll tax cut and unemployment legislation. Republicans apparently promised not to pass the spending agreement and then leave town, sticking Democrats in the Senate only with the partisan payroll tax/UI bill they passed earlier in the week.
That payroll tax/UI legislation was still being worked on deep into the night, with the parties around $90 billion apart. If they cannot find the offsets that deficit mania in Washington dictates are required, then the new plan is to go with a two-month stopgap where the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits get extended at current levels. This would cost about $40 billion, and there are several spending cuts of that amount that have been agreed to by both parties, and which existed in both their legislative packages on this bill. One would be the raising of fees mortgage lenders pay to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to guarantee mortgages. Another would be the sale of wireless spectrum. Or the useless ban on food stamps and unemployment benefits for millionaires, so everyone can say that those millionaires suffered by the hand of Congress.
That would be the fallback option, if no agreement can be made for a year-long extension. And then we get to have this argument all over again in February.
Another final sticking point is whether the Keystone XL pipeline decision would get attached to the bill. Since attaching it would actually kill the pipeline project, because the State Department said clearly they would not allow the permit if they had to make a decision in 60 days, Republicans are rethinking whether they really want to force the issue and make the President make this decision. I’m sure TransCanada lobbyists are giving them an earful on that.