The proposed Continuing Resolution/Omnibus spending bill, better known as the "CROmnibus," is so tortured, it'll make you beg for a little time in a coffin-shaped box, but if the bill passes, all those boxes will be loaded with white potatoes. The potato provision, which states that white potatoes must be included as eligible for purchase in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, is one of many that are getting attention in the political press as saps to special interests.
Along the same lines, the bill also contains a provision gutting the nutritional requirements for school lunches that First Lady Michelle Obama has championed. Also, remember how horrible Ebola was before the midterms? Well, the CROmnibus funds Ebola at half-a-billion dollars less than President Obama requested.
The provision that's getting the most attention today, though, is a rollback of Dodd-Frank that would allow banks to put federally insured deposits at indirect risk. Barney Frank explained it in detail on the All In last night, but basically, there was already a rule that prevented banks from gambling with FDIC-insured deposits, but Dodd-Frank added a rule that said banks had to set up a whole other company to do their gambling, reasoning that risky derivatives could still sink a company with FDIC-insured deposits even if those deposits were not used in the trades. That's the rule that the CROmnibus (not to be confused with the Romneybus, a luxury party bus that plays the chorus of "Who Let The Dogs Out" on a loop and always gets there just behind another bus) aims to repeal, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is pissed about that. She took to the Senate floor yesterday to ask the age-old question, "Who does Number Two Work For?"
"Citigroup is large and it is powerful, but it is a single private company. It shouldn't get to hold the entire government hostage, to threaten a government shutdown in order to roll back important protections that keep our economy safe. This is a democracy, and the American people didn't elect us to stand up for Citigroup. They elected us to stand up for all the people."
Unfortunately, the mic is attached to the dais, so Warren was unable to drop it. The White House, as of yesterday, had not commented on the provision, but Press Secretary Josh Earnest did say, as a general matter, that "I don’t think the vast majority of Democrats or even Republicans are going to look too kindly on a Congress that’s ready to go back and start doing the bidding of Wall Street interests again," so make of that what you will.
House Speaker John Boehner defended the CROmnibus in a press conference Wednesday, essentially telling reporters "Forget it, Jake. It's the lame duck." Notably, he was not asked about the Dodd-Frank provision:
On his taxpayer-funded website, however, Boehner says gutting the rule helps farmers. Whoop-dee-frickin'-doo. I thought that was John Cougar Mellencamp's job. Seriously, though, helping farmers hedge against crop failure more cheaply is not exactly the equal counter-weight to protecting everyone in America's money from a financial catastrophe. Besides, isn't there insurance for that?
As crapulous as the Dodd-Frank provision, and all of its cousins, are, there's something even more frightening about the CROmnibus, and not only is it hiding in plain sight, Republicans are bragging about it. Here is what Speaker Boehner's website wants you to know about the CROmnibus' treatment of the one federal agency that's tasked with keeping the entire world from being waterboarded:
Notably, the bill cuts funding for the EPA for the fifth consecutive year, and reduces its staffing to the lowest level since 1989.
Ah, yes, 1989. That was the year before we enacted a law to eliminate acid rain. That's the staffing level Republicans are bragging about for the only government entity that has any power to do anything about catastrophic climate change. The Democratic Congress couldn't, the split Congress couldn't, and in a few weeks, the Republicans will control all of Congress. Whatever happens to that Dodd-Frank provision, the EPA funding isn't even part of the discussion, and Democrats still control one chamber. How's it going to be come January? More importantly, what Democrat will make climate change a campaign issue in 2016, rather than striking some kind of Republican-lite "pro-energy" pose?
Update: At a press conference Thursday morning, Speaker Boehner responded to Warren's criticisms with a declaration of faith:
Reporter: "Why should big banks be able to trade derivatives, and have their risk covered by us, by the taxpayers?"
Boehner: "I don't believe that to be the case."
It's not a dude in a red suit at the North Pole, it's a bill that's written on paper. There's no "belief" involved. That's what it does.
Update 2: The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy on the CROmnibus that included the following objections, but no veto threat:
However, the Administration objects to the inclusion of ideological and special interest riders in the House bill. In particular, the Administration is opposed to the inclusion of a rider that would amend the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk. Additionally, the Administration is opposed to inclusion of a rider that would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act to allow individual donors to contribute to national political party committee accounts for conventions, buildings and recounts in amounts that are dramatically higher than what the law currently permits.
Furthermore, the Administration is disappointed that the bill would fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 27, 2015, at last year's levels. Short-term continuing resolution funding measures are disruptive, create uncertainty, and impede efficient resource planning and execution.
The Administration urges the Congress to enact comprehensive full-year appropriations legislation for all Government functions free of provisions that have no place in annual appropriations bills.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, this afternoon, that the bill "merits bipartisan support" and that if it reaches the President's desk, "he will sign it."