Democrats use om­nibus to evis­cer­ate Bush poli­cies

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Democrats, freed from for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s veto threats, are gut­ting the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­grams with fund­ing cuts and pol­icy changes in the om­nibus spending bill that the House passed Feb. 25.

From in­clud­ing lan­guage to “con­sider” gov­ern­ment health care ben­e­fits for same-sex do­mes­tic part­ners of fed­eral work­ers to elim­i­nat­ing District of Columbia school vouch­ers, which they con­sider an af­front to the pub­lic school sys­tem, Democrats say there are plenty of wrongs to right in Mr. Bush’s wake.

The pork-laden bill also slashes funds for ab­sti­nence ed­u­ca­tion and erases lan­guage pro­hibit­ing a “fair­ness doc­trine” law that threat­ens to squelch con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio.

“There’s a lot of dam­age to re­pair [. . . ] and I’m dy­ing to get it done,” said Rep. Louise M. Slaugh­ter, New York Demo­crat and chair­man of the House Rules Com­mit­tee. “We’re try­ing to get back in the 21st cen­tury here.”

House Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bar­ney Frank, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, said the om­nibus was merely a first step. He said the spending bill would be fol­lowed soon by ex­panded fund­ing for stem-cell re­search and a hate crimes law.

“You’ll see more of it [. . .] where our winning will make change for the bet­ter,” Mr. Frank said. “That’s what hap­pens when you have an elec­tion and one side wins and the other side loses.”

The House passed the $410 bil­lion om­nibus bill, which funds most of the gov­ern­ment for the re­main­der of the fis­cal year that ends Sept. 30, in a near party-line 245-178 vote, with 16 Repub­li­cans cross­ing party lines to sup­port the spending pack­age and 16 Democrats break­ing ranks to vote against it.

The leg­is­la­tion now goes to the Se­nate, where fierce de­bate is ex­pected this week. Repub­li­cans ob­ject to the bill’s high price tag, re­dun­dant spending on pro­grams funded by the $787 bil­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus and more than 9,000 pet projects worth $12.8 bil­lion that mem­bers of both par­ties tacked onto the bill.

De­spite Pres­i­dent Obama’s oft­stated dis­taste for ear­mark pork and the ways of Wash­ing­ton, the White House said it will not take a stand against the projects be­cause the leg­is­la­tion orig­i­nated un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion and there­fore rep­re­sents the fi­nal Bush bud­get bill.

Still, the om­nibus rolls back more than a dozen Repub­li­can pri­or­i­ties as it im­plants the stamp of Mr. Obama and the Demo­crat-led Congress on gov­ern­ment. It boosts spending for fam­ily plan­ning in for­eign coun­tries without the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion “Mex­ico City pol­icy,” which pro­hib­ited funds from go­ing to or­ga­ni­za­tions that per­form or pro­mote abor­tions. Those funds in­creased by $88 mil­lion over past year to $545 mil­lion.

Mr. Obama al­ready has signed a se­ries of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders to over­turn Bush po­lices, from reg­u­la­tions that re­stricted la­bor unions to rules gov­ern­ing the de­ten­tion and treat­ment of sus­pected ter­ror­ists.

Rep. Mike Pence of In­di­ana, chair­man of the House Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence, said the bill “wages war on many of the most cher­ished poli­cies of so­cial con­ser­va­tives of the past quar­ter cen­tury.”

He said he was not sur­prised that Democrats are rel­ish­ing the mo­ment.

“It re­flects their lib­eral so­cial agenda. I don’t know how happy the Amer­i­can peo­ple will be,” he said. “They will be deeply dis­ap­pointed how quickly one-party lib­eral gov­ern­ment has de­parted from their val­ues.”

The om­nibus re­duces by nearly half the spending on Mr. Bush’s sig­na­ture for­eign aid pro­gram, the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Corp., halts a pi­lot pro­gram al­low­ing Mex­i­can trucks into the U.S. for cross-bor­der com­merce, and weak­ens travel re­stric­tions to Cuba.

The fund­ing cuts and pol­icy rewrites aimed at Mr. Bush’s legacy come within a pack­age that over­all in­creases spending 8 per­cent — about $32 bil­lion — above 2008 lev­els for the nine an­nual ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills in­cluded in the om­nibus.

The other three an­nual ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills — fund­ing the De­fense, Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and Home­land Se­cu­rity de­part­ments — passed last year with a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion that has kept the rest of the gov­ern­ment run­ning at 2008 fund­ing lev­els since the fis­cal year be­gan Oct. 1.

That stop­gap fund­ing ex­pires March 6.

The om­nibus spending in­creases come on the heels of the $700 bil­lion Wall Street bailout un­der Mr. Bush and a $787 bil­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus Mr. Obama signed into law last month.

It will be fol­lowed by Mr. Obama’s first bud­get, which the pres­i­dent prom­ises will be­gin the process of cut­ting the $1.3 tril­lion fed­eral deficit to $533 bil­lion in four years.

Repub­li­can leaders crit­i­cized the om­nibus as more of Democrats’ “bor­row-and-spend” gov­ern­ing and called for a freeze on gov­ern­ment spending at 2008 lev­els.

Democrats said the added spending was needed to make up for nearly a decade of cuts to vi­tal ser­vices by Mr. Bush and his Repub­li­can al­lies in Congress.

“Last year, Pres­i­dent Bush re­fused to fund our cops and fire­fight­ers, en­ergy re­search to re­duce our de­pen­dence on for­eign oil, health care re­form and ed­u­ca­tion,” said Rep. John B. Lar­son of Con­necti­cut, chair­man of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus. “By restor­ing this fund­ing, we are in­vest­ing in our na­tional pri­or­i­ties, putting Amer­i­cans back to work and build­ing a stronger econ­omy for the fu­ture.”

Democrats said the om­nibus was nec­es­sary only be­cause of Mr. Bush’s veto threat last year for any ap­pro­pri­a­tion bills that ex­ceeded his spending limit. They said Mr. Bush’s pro­grams would have been funded through the end of the fis­cal year if he had al­lowed added spending for some of the Democrats’ pri­or­i­ties.

“What goes around comes around,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey of Cal­i­for­nia, co-chair­man of the 71-mem­ber Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus that makes up about a third of the House Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity.

She said “fix­ing things” was what vot­ers de­manded.

“That’s why they voted for Barack Obama for pres­i­dent and why we have such a large ma­jor­ity in the House and in the Se­nate,” Mrs. Woolsey said.


Lib­er­als tri­umphant: Rep. Bar­ney Frank

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