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The good, the bad and the ugly: Here’s what’s in the new spending bills

Dec 20, 2019 by AFP

Your Christmas present from Congress has just arrived – two omnibus spending bills with “something for everyone to like.” But really, they are a massive, expensive lump of coal.

As Congress has seen fit to do so many times in the past, these spending bills were left until the last minute, forcing a scramble to the finish line ahead of Christmas.

The package totals nearly $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending, a 4.8% increase from last year’s bloated discretionary spending level.

Much like a Christmas tree, this spending bill is filled with glittery ornaments in the form of increased spending and special interest provisions that end up costing taxpayers.

Americans for Prosperity Senior Policy Fellow Alison Winters helped unpack the good, the bad and the ugly from the spending package.

The Good

One big take away from this year’s spending debacle is that we won’t experience a holiday government shutdown if the spending bill is signed into law by Dec. 20 at midnight.

It’s a low standard by which to judge, but better than a government shutdown.

There are a few bright spots in the bill itself, specifically on health care. The measure would repeal Obamacare-related taxes on health insurers and certain business or union-sponsored health plans.

The spending deal would also repeal taxes on medical devices that limit innovation and access to care.

There is also a provision to create more government transparency by “strongly” urging the attorney general to release legal opinions drafted by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

The Bad

The bad news is that despite those positive points, the bill includes far too much spending — a total of $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2020.

The legislation provides $738 billion in military funding, a $22 billion increase from last year. Non-defense funding topped out at $632 billion, plus billions more on emergency and disaster funding for a whopping price tag of $1.4 trillion.

That is massive amounts of spending with little consideration for the taxpayers, not to mention the national debt. And don’t forget, this doesn’t even count the vast majority of the budget is on autopilot, funding mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Additionally, there was little to no transparency in the process as Congress is rushing to get the bills signed before government funding runs out.

The bills are more than 2,300 pages long all totaled, but members of the House were given less than 24 hours to read over the provisions before debate and voting started. The Senate had just 24 hours longer.

That is a pretty poor way to steward taxpayer money and govern in general.

The Ugly

Congress may have gotten a deal in place before a government shutdown, but it was by no means on time. The fiscal year started Oct. 1, meaning Congress is about three months late putting a spending package together.

Budgeting by crisis has become common in Washington as squabbling and poor policies lead to last-minute deals and bills passed simply to avoid another shutdown. Lawmakers use budgeting by crisis to hang “must-pass” ornaments on the spending Christmas tree, knowing the measures will get passed and signed.

One of the ugliest provisions in the new spending bill is the seven-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank and numerous special tax giveaways known as extenders are nothing more than corporate welfare for the well-connected, with no accountability to the taxpayers. Yet the taxpayer is left footing the bill.

The fiscal 2020 spending bill continues the federal government down the path toward a bleak future. Congress needs to take a long, hard look at the way it spends taxpayer dollars and stop being irresponsible with our money.

Read more of Alison Winters’ issue brief on the spending bill.