Congress Must Say No To Lame-Duck Spending

Andy Koenig | Forbes:

Who saw this coming? President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have already begun threatening a government shutdown by the month’s end. “We are not doing anything into next year and Republicans should be made aware of that right now,” Reid recently warned.

Of course, this is exactly what Republicans should expect from a sitting president and minority leader whose days in office are quickly approaching the single digits.

Now that neither President Obama nor Sen. Reid will be accountable to the voters, this is their last-ditch effort to make sure that they control the budget process. They know that the way to send farewell favors to all their friends on K-street is to force Congress into passing a spending bill during a lame-duck session in December.

If recent history is any guide, a lame-duck session is a raw deal for the American taxpayer. Delaying a budget decision until December would inevitably result in an eleventh-hour deal – strung together right before everyone is ready to get out of town for the holidays. Inevitably tucked inside would be higher spending and handouts to special interests. President Obama, Sen. Reid, and their fellow outgoing politicians – on both sides of the aisle – would then ram the bill through Congress, send it to the president’s desk, and get out of Dodge before too many noticed.

Take just a few examples of the measures that have passed in recent lame-duck sessions.

The 2012 “fiscal cliff deal,” for instance, busted the bipartisan spending caps established in the 2011 Budget Control Act, allowing for an additional $47 billion in government spending. Politicians on both sides of the aisle were all-too-willing to concede to more taxpayer spending for special interests.

And in return, hardworking American saw their tax rates rise. As it’s reported, then House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) asked the president, “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?” The president replied, “I get that for free.”

2014 was no better. Once again, right in time for the holidays, a long list of wasteful federal programs received more taxpayer-funded stocking stuffers. The lame-duck spending bill included an additional $456 million for federal weather forecasting services; $284 million  to cushion the Environmental Protection Agency, including initiatives to beautify beaches and combat algal blooms in the Great Lakes; and  $71 million to expand foreign agriculture programs, which are often little more than handouts to well-connected foreign enterprises.

But federal programs weren’t the only ones that got a fresh infusion of taxpayer cash. Lobbyists were so set on getting their share of holiday treats that the 2014 spending bill, known as the “CRomnibus,” was the most heavily-lobbied bill of the year. An army of more than 200 lobbyists deployed on Capitol Hill to make sure that the $1.1-trillion package had goodies for their clients.

This year, President Obama and Sen. Reid are pre-packaging favors so when the time comes, they can slide them into a massive lame-duck package. Among those on the potential “nice list” are tax breaks for NASCAR, Hollywood studios, rum manufactures, and green-energy giants.

Each has already received special tax treatment in past bills. Now, that special tax treatment is due to expire – but if Sen. Reid and President Obama have it their way, these lucrative enterprises will be just a few of the lucky industries that benefit from a lame-duck session. The wealthy and well-connected will keep their fortunes, while hardworking Americans get stuck with the bill.

That’s why we can’t delay a spending package until December. We should recognize a lame-duck session for what it is: a concession to all the outgoing members and their lobbyist friends lining up for their special prizes.

Rather than waiting to pass an eleventh-hour deal, Congress should immediately pass a spending bill that extends into 2017, when newly elected representatives will be sworn into office and accountable to the people.

This will ensure that outgoing politicians aren’t the ones calling the shots. Instead, lawmakers fresh on the job – and with a more immediate mandate from the voters –will have their first chance to stand with the voters and pass a bill that puts hardworking Americans first. That’s a plan worth passing – not a lame-duck mega-bill filled with higher spending and handouts for the wealthy and the well-connected.

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