December 11, 2014
A little history:
“All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”
Article I, Section 7, Clause 1
Origination Clause in the United States Constitution
House Election 2012 Results: Republicans Renew Control Of Chamber For 2 Years
SUMMARY: FISCAL YEAR 2015 OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS BILL
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee today released highlights of the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill, “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015,” that totals $1.014 trillion in discretionary spending in compliance with the bipartisan Murray-Ryan budget agreement. The bill funds the government through September 30, 2015.
In addition, it includes: $5.4 billion of emergency funding to prepare for and respond to the Ebola outbreak; $73.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations; and $6.5 billion of disaster aid.
By “bipartisan agreement” means either accept it or Republicans would shut down the government. For comparison, the United States spent $50 billion for all housing assistance programs in 2013 for a country of 313 million people.
Here’s the bill to be passed by the senate today:
TEXT OF HOUSE AMENDMENT TO THE SENATE
AMENDMENT TO H.R. 83
[Showing the text of the Consolidated and Further
Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015]
The current government spending bill expires on Thursday (today 12/11/14), and failure to pass new legislation by then will trigger another shutdown a little more than a year after Republicans forced a 16-day government closure in October 2013. That GOP standoff over defunding the Democrats’ health care law cost the nation an estimated $24 billion.
Though the so-called omnibus bill funds the majority of the government through an omnibus package for the rest of the fiscal year, it pays for the Department of Homeland Security only through February via a stopgap measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR. Conservatives hope to isolate the department, which is tasked with implementing President Barack Obama’s recent executive order exempting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, and the bill will give Republicans a chance to freshly debate its funding in the new year, when they will control both the House and Senate.
Significant policy changes:
ELIMINATE KEY COMPONENT OF WALL STREET REFORM:
Eliminating a key Wall Street reform component. The Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010 approved sweeping changes to the nation’s financial systems, many of them tailored to prevent the kind of crisis that tanked the economy in 2008. One of the centerpieces of the bill was a measure designed to spin off banks’ riskiest activities into subsidiaries, isolating the main functions of banks from those risks and also ensuring that taxpayers would not be on the hook to pay for losses created by those risky trades in the event that they failed. The spending bill approved by Congress eliminates the so-called push-out provision from the Dodd-Frank law, meaning that the trading of derivatives — the risky swaps or bets made against the rise and fall of value in assets — can now once again happen in-house in Wall Street’s largest banks.
Translation: Taxpayer’s will still be on the hook; bailouts at near-zero interest. Sorry students, Republicans want you to payback all your interest on your loans.
Democrats led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are outraged by this return to old ways, and she has said she will oppose the whole bill if the provision remains in it.
DISMANTLE CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM:
Dismantling what was left of campaign finance reform. The Supreme Court since 2010 has repeatedly struck down political donation restrictions approved by Congress in the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. With the spending bill approved by Congress this week, lawmakers at the last minute agreed to undo the most significant remaining changes from the law: the limits for individuals on how much they can give to political parties. Before the change, which was inserted in the last few pages of the mammoth spending bill, the most any one person could give to a party group like the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee was $32,400 per year. Now any individual will be able to give anywhere from $97,200 to $777,600, depending on the interpretation of the language included in the government-spending bill.
Whoa. That’ll take you little guys 38,880 – $20 donations to meet that kind of dough.
CUT IRS AND EPA FUNDING:
Cutting IRS and EPA funding. Republicans are touting cuts to the budgets of the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. The spending deal reduces IRS spending by $345 million in an olive branch to conservatives still miffed over a scandal involving the agency and its targeting of political groups that were using nonprofit loopholes to avoid paying certain taxes. The IRS funding levels in 2015 will now be lower than they were in the 2008 fiscal year.
Hello tax inversions and tax havens!
Republicans have cut the EPA’s budget for the fifth consecutive year. In a press release the day after the deal was announced, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, touted cuts to the EPA as one of the “Ten Things You Should Know About the Omnibus Appropriations Bill” and the fact that the bill reduces EPA staffing “to the lowest level since 1989.”
I’ll drink bottle water to that!
SETUP IMMIGRATION FUND FIGHT:
Setting up a messy immigration funding fight. A key feature of the deal for Republicans is that it funds most of the government while specifically preventing Congress from filling the Homeland Security department’s coffers. That particular bargain will allow the House and Senate GOP majority in 2015 to fight over how to appropriate overall Homeland Security programs while withholding funds for the implementation of the president’s immigration executive order. As Yahoo News previously reported, it will be difficult for the GOP to defund implementation of the order because the DHS agency that oversees immigration status changes is self-funded through fees it levies on immigration applications. And yet by agreeing to this particular deal, Democrats are setting themselves up for a messy fight with Republicans about the immigration issue at a time when they will have much less leverage to get their way.
Keep cheap, exploitable labor flowing!
ROLL BACK TRUCK SAFETY REGULATIONS:
Rolling back truck safety regulations. A policy rider added to the bill to sweeten the deal for Republicans will roll back truck safety regulations issued by the Department of Transportation in 2011 to prevent traffic accidents resulting from trucker fatigue. The two basic requirements were that drivers take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shifts and take a “restart” period of 34 hours of rest weekly. According to the Department of Transportation, the “net effect of these changes was to reduce the average maximum week a driver could work from 82 hours to 70 hours.” Trucking companies have been lobbying against these changes and now appear to have secured a victory by getting their repeal included in the spending bill.
Source: Yahoo News
Just don’t get too close to my bumper!
CLEAN WATER ACT:
In a win for Republicans, the spending bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from applying the law to certain farm ponds and irrigation ditches — a move that GOP aides said would benefit farmers.
Been to the Salton Sea lately?
PROHIBIT FUNDS TO ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS:
This little one is tucked in under the guise of “Reining in Bureaucratic Overreach”: A provision prohibiting funds for the Army Corps of Engineers to change the definition of “fill material,” which could have harmful effects on many U.S. industries.
No mention of American citizens. I thought we were people too?
And the worst:
For the first time, the benefits of current retirees could be severely cut, part of an effort to save some of the nation’s most distressed pension plans. The change would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers; many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets.
The Pension Rights Center’s Friedman also added, “It is a travesty that, in the year of the 40th anniversary of the landmark pension law, ERISA, Congress is about to sweep away a central tenet of the law – that, once pension benefits are earned, they cannot be reduced or cut back.
“Even when multiemployer plans face difficulties, retirees’ pensions are given the strongest protections under the law. Only when multiemployer plans run completely out of money, then – and only then – does the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation step in to assist these plans, and retirees’ benefits are reduced to the low government guaranty level.”
The problem is there are no guidelines for trustees to use to qualify as “distressed”. Currently only multi-employer pensions considered distressed are listed and categorized by the U.S. Labor Department here (currently around 10 million Americans): http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/criticalstatusnotices.html
“We in Congress should have done more to help working people in recent years as the middle class has been squeezed by stagnant wages and rising costs. The multiemployer pension system’s struggle to cope with fallout from the Great Recession is an example. Now, if we do nothing, millions may lose their pensions forever, millions more will not receive supposedly guaranteed benefits, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will collapse.
“I had hoped that we could work in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to find a solution to this crisis – a balanced solution that protects benefits and PBGC solvency to the maximum extent possible, while also providing a meaningful path forward for workers, retirees and employers who want pensions in the future. Unfortunately, the approach put forth by the House and posted last night on then Rules Committee website as an amendment to the omnibus is not balanced and fails to fix the multiemployer system. It is focused almost purely on cutting retiree benefits.
“More than one million people could see their pensions cut. Meanwhile, it leaves PBGC woefully underfunded, pushing out insolvency by just two years. The approach fails to include any of the proposals to allow innovative, hybrid plan designs for the future. I cannot and do not support this unbalanced approach, which asks retirees to take potentially enormous cuts to benefits that were earned and promised, without effectively preserving the pension system going forward.”
Source: Senator Tom Harkin
Republicans pitched this suggestion in a 2013 proposal called “Solutions not Bailouts”
I guess that only applies to seniors and not banks.
This is nothing. Wait until we have Republican controlled Congress next year.
A hypothetical situation or reality?
A truck driver suffering from fatigue to make up the wages he lost since he was made an independent contractor, swerves off the road and hits an embankment.
The embankment separating the road and a pond was made by the Army Corp of Engineers using inferior “fill material” to cut contractor costs. The tractor trailer crashes through the embankment and lands in the pond.
While the driver is able to free himself from the tractor, he dies while swallowing toxic fertilizer from the pond water.
His grieving widow gets a 30% cut in her husband’s distressed pension and only to find out next year under the Republican controlled Congress, her Social Security will be cut through chained CPI and everyone lives happily ever after..
That is sad. I hope the tractor insurer has some credit swaps or something….