Congress Makes Deal on Omnibus Spending

Last night, the various powers that be in the US Congress came to a final arrangement on an omnibus spending bill. There are things in it that Democrats hate and Republicans like and vice versa. It’s a compromise, and that means no one is entirely happy. The real shame is that this is news. For once, Washington is working the way it used to work. One can only hope it is habit forming.

For fiscal 2014 (which began on October 1), the United States government is going to spend $1.012 trillion on discretionary programs. The bill means the sequester idiocy is officially dead while retaining most of the spending reductions that idea engendered. There is an extra $45 billion for military and domestic spending above the sequester levels, and there is $85.2 billion flushed down the toilet that is the war in Afghanistan — however, Congress gets points for transparency because this huge waste is usually done off-budget.

Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Republican Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky said in a statement, “As with any compromise, not everyone will like everything in this bill, but in this divided government a critical bill such as this simply cannot reflect the wants of only one party.”

White House Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell spun things in her statement saying, “This legislation adheres to the funding levels in the budget agreement enacted in December, unwinds some of the damaging cuts caused by sequestration.”

David Lawder at Reuters wrote, “Democratic aides said the bill includes no new provisions prohibiting regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, nor forestry and stream management. They also prevented new gun-rights language from inclusion. But Republicans did get a policy provision into the measure that prohibits funding of the Obama administration’s ‘light bulb standard,’ which prohibits the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs in favor of newer technologies that reduce energy consumption.”

These are very small wins for both sides, but they are very big deals to vocal and active minorities (sometimes pronounced “donors”). However, that is how the art of compromise works. Party A gets something very important to a few of its supporters and about which Party B doesn’t much care and vice versa. Washington in recent years has failed to work because the Republicans largely viewed anything less than 100% of their program as a sell-out of conservative principles.

What appears to have changed hearts and minds was the disastrous poll numbers that befell the Republicans during the 16-day government shut down last autumn. It was easier to yield a little here and there, scream “Benghazi” and move on rather than go through all of that misery again.

This deal removes the last budget hurdle from the markets. All that remains now is the debt ceiling increase that will likely be needed in March or April. If the spirit of cooperation continues, that might also happen without the sturm und drang of the past. Then, the economy would be out of reasons not to flourish.