1 Day of Life: Congress takes the fun out of dysfunctional, and pro-life pays the price
Last week, the House and Senate voted on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (H.R.3547), better known as the omnibus appropriations package. The $1.111 trillion spending bill funds the federal government’s discretionary functions and overseas contingency operations (OCO) through September 30, 2014.
Two things about this have upset conservatives. First off, it increases spending, including breaking the spending limits set by the Sequester. Heritage Action puts it thusly:
(The omnibus is a) $45 billion increase over the 2014 sequestration level set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was altered by the recently passed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. As a result, the omnibus increases spending, in some cases dramatically, beyond most of the House-passed allocations for FY14 appropriations cycle.
The second upsetting thing is more among social conservatives. While the Omnibus does protect most pro-life provisions it failed to include protections for conscience in relation to the pressing Obama mandate forcing business owners to pay for abortifacients, sterilizations and contraception. As Family Research Council (FRC) put it:
Despite that success (on pro-life provisions), Republicans failed to achieve one of the biggest priorities of the pro-life community: attaching conscience protections to a must-pass piece of legislation. As Sen. Mikulski said, “ObamaCare lives another day.” But for millions of Americans, religious liberty does not. For months, groups like FRC had stressed the importance of exempting employers from the HHS mandate.
While Heritage Action and FRC are correct in pointing out the failings of the Omnibus the true problem lies in the dysfunction of Congress in its inability to do its most basic function – setting the budget for the United States government. It has been almost four years since Congress even passed something resembling an Omnibus – relying since 2011 on short term spending bills called “continuing resolutions” or CRs. However last week’s Omnibus isn’t a sign of things getting better. Not once during Senate Majority Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) reign in the Senate has that august body been able to pass a budget through regular order. The way the budget process used to work is, the president proposes a budget; the House and the Senate each pass budget resolutions; the two chambers conference to set top-line spending levels for discretionary spending; and the appropriations process allocates funds among the agencies through a series of bills dealing with various agencies.
For years President Obama has refused to submit a budget on time and, as mentioned before, Harry Reid is incapable of allowing the Senate to function properly. After a few years of this even the house started giving up, not fully completing its own appropriations process. And who can blame them – they figure why waste the energy when the Senate won’t act on whatever they pass?
While this dysfunction is bad for the nation it is worse for those who want to implement real change. A CR or an Omnibus, with few exceptions, merely maintains the status quo – or allows the Obama Administration run ram shod over the Constitution using regulations from everything from environmental protocols to forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions.
Such dysfunction makes it hard to push the ball forward or to react to things happening outside of the budget process. In the latest Omnibus Republicans maintained pro-life provisions that prohibit D.C. from using local or federal funds to pay for abortions. However what isn’t addressed is how the D.C. government’s recent actions of declaring themselves no longer under the guidance of Congress, which many believe to be unconstitutional, would affect that rider.
Additionally the provision that prohibits the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions in the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program was maintained in the current Omnibus – ignoring the fact that, under Obamacare, combined with an edict from President Obama, the FEHB now will pay for abortions using your tax dollars!
If Congress functioned properly these concerns, as well as those of conscience, could be dealt with in regular order as opposed to the new status quo of dysfunction. As long as Congress refuses to change, or is changed by the voters, we will be a country not governed by democracy but ruled by pro-abortion politicians such as Harry Reid and Barack Obama.