As today’s deadline for the passage of the omnibus spending bill is here, it’s looking like the GOP is still determined to shut down the government if their demands are not met – even to the point of cutting off their collective noses to spite their faces. Because of a number of highly questionable provisions being tacked on to the bill – which Senator Barbara Mikullski (D-MD) aptly describes as “poison pill riders” – House Speaker Paul Ryan and his Congressional colleagues will actually have to work this weekend (imagine that!)
The current budget battle has also resulted in the cancellation of a big RNC fundraiser that had been scheduled for Wednesday evening. The reason: old “Lyin’ Ryan” had to back out of being the keynote speaker. That event, the RNC Trust Dinner, draws major GOP donors, whose contributions ultimately wind up funding the party’s presidential nominee. Apparently, it’s more important to play games and throw tantrums in order to get their way than to raise campaign cash for the Republican presidential race.
So…what is so important to the GOP agenda that they were willing to sacrifice a major fund raising event?
While Senator Mikulski acknowledges the two sides are “making very good progress on resolving the money issues,” there are a number of provisions “that never even should have been on the appropriations.” Those provisions have brought negotiations to a standstill. Among the bones of contention is what is being labeled in the media as the “Hobby Lobby Rider.” Originally attached to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016 (HR 3020), this provision would make it legal for health care providers, businesses and other organizations to sue the government if they were penalized for refusing to provide “abortion-related services.” Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) told the media that he had not even known about it until Wednesday. “If they try to do it, all hell will break loose,” he said.
That’s not the worst of it. Ryan and Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) have agreed to support a bill extending health care benefits to 9/11 first responders and others who continue to suffer from chronic respiratory disease as a result of asbestos-laden dust from the collapse of the Twin Towers. Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has agreed to attach the bill, for which former television host Jon Stewart has been actively lobbying. As is always the case with the Repukes, there is a catch: Medicare recipients would be subjected to “means testing,” effectively turning the fifty-year-old program into an income-dependent welfare program. This is anathema to Congressional Democrats as well as advocates for seniors. Joyce Rogers, Senior Vice President of the AARP, states categorically that “Medicare is not a welfare program…applying a means test for their earned benefits would erode the popular support that has sustained these programs for years and made them so effective in helping older households.”
Of course, sensing how the political winds are blowing these days and attempting to play both ends against the middle, Upton is touting it as “entitlement reform” as well as a “tax on the rich.”
Yet another “poison pill” attached to the omnibus bill is the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act” (CISA). This law, so badly written that it couldn’t pass on its own, effectively guts most on-line privacy protections and returns us to the days of warrantless domestic spying that was carried out under the George W. Bush Administration. And who’s really pushing for it? None other than old “Lyin’ Ryan” himself.
Another egregious provision would undermine rules governing the ways in which political parties coordinate with candidates. The way the legislation is written would allow wealthy donors to give even more large sums of money in order to buy off candidates. This one, assuming voters become widely aware of it and understand its implications, would be likely to blow up in the Republican’s face: campaign financing and the ability of the rich to buy elections is one of the hot-button issues of this cycle – on both sides.
We could go on and on, but we trust the point has been made. It’s really all very simple: if it favors the wealthy and screws over the poor and the working class, if it robs We, The People of our privacy and curtails our civil rights, if it plants the corporate jackboot ever more firmly upon our collective necks – it’s in there. These provisions are things that very few constituents would accept, if they knew about them. They would be understandably outraged. GOP members of Congress know this very well, but they have either forgotten that they are only proxies in Washington, charged with carrying out the will of those constituents – or (as is more likely), they are drunk on power and don’t give a tinker’s damn. And they are so beholden to the special interests who own them that they are willing to hold all of us hostage to their agenda.
But our readers already know that, having seen it all before. It’s time to clean House (and Senate).