12 Days of Budget Policy Riders: What Congress Gave Away in the Cromnibus

National Priorities Projectxmastree_large
12/19/14
(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

In the spirit of the Twelve Days of Christmas, here are twelve of the more bizarre or outrageous early Christmas gifts to special groups that lawmakers delivered through policy riders in the 2015 federal budget bill known as the Cromnibus:

  1. Provided a tax deduction targeted specifically to Blue Cross Blue Shield (which is never actually named) to offset costs the company may incur under the Affordable Care Act
  2. Exempted cattle farmers from reporting and permitting requirements for greenhouse gas and methane emissions (a major source of greenhouse gases)
  3. Ordered a study of small business classifications for providers of military footwear after an outcry about rule changes from Michigan lawmakers, where military footwear supplier Bates is located
  4. Made white potatoes eligible under Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food benefits, in a giveaway to potato farmers
  5. Reopened the door for U.S. government entities (OPIC and the Export-Import Bank) to fund foreign coal plants, providing a win for U.S. coal exporters and reversing an earlier rule change
  6. Prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the phase out of inefficient incandescent light bulbs that was signed into law by President George W. Bush as an energy efficiency measure
  7. Allowed schools to get around sodium and whole grain requirements for school lunches, delivering  win for “big food
  8. Prohibited classification of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species for the rest of the year, delivering a win for would-be developers in the bird’s habitats
  9. Overturned Washington D.C.’s voter-approved decriminalization of marijuana, delivering a win for marijuana legalization opponents
  10. Relaxed rules under Dodd-Frank financial regulation that require banks to separate their consumer-based, FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Commission)backed business from trading in financial derivatives
  11. Raised limits on campaign contributions to political parties by ten times
  12. Prohibited government from requiring businesses to disclose their political campaign contributions when applying for federal contracts – and a House summary of the bill lists this under “Good-Government Provisions”

These are but a few examples of what happens when Congress budgets behind closed doors instead of properly passing a budget that actually reflects Americans’ priorities. Maybe lawmakers’ New Year’s Resolution could be to do it differently next year.

Those Pension Cuts and What You Need to Know

http://blog.aarp.org/
12/16/14

Congress recently carved a hole in a 40-year-old pension law that has prevented employers from cutting benefits earned by those already retired. This change applies to people covered under multiemployer plans that are in critical financial shape.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is a multiemployer plan? This is a pension covering workers and retirees from more than one employer in the same or related industries, such as trucking or construction. (Most of them were established under collective bargaining between a union and the employers.) There are about 1,400 multiemployer plans with 10.4 million participants… (more)

More analysis of spending bill and clarification as to whether it was $1.1 T or $1.01 T

The National Priorities Project (NPP) is a source I frequently refer to. If not familiar with NPP I strongly encourage visiting at least NPP’s home page. I subscribe to their email list (no cost and only requires email and zip) and this can be done near the bottom of their home page.

NPP has an analysis of the recently passed spending bill and has some details not previously shared on this blog including:

Debt & Deficit

  • Officially abides by the spending limits ($1.013 trillion) of the 2013 Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act.
  • However, total spending is actually closer to $1.1 trillion, when you count emergency spending and appropriations from previous years that will actually be spent this year, bringing spending above the Bipartisan Budget Act limit.

What’s in the $1.1 trillion spending bill?

(The Washington Post on 12/10/14 published “What’s in the spending bill? We skim it so you don’t have to,” as reported by Ed O’Keefe, and republished below.) This item has been updated and revised. The $1.01 trillion spending bill unveiled late Tuesday will keep most of the federal government funded through next September — and it’s packed with hundreds of policy instructions, known on Capitol Hill as “riders,” that will upset or excite Democrats, Republicans and various special interest groups. So, what’s in the bill? We’ve sifted through the legislation, consulted … Continue reading