For years, Congress has dispensed with the pretense of informed legislative process when it comes to major bills and appropriations. The new $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill, however, took the notion of blind legislating to a disgraceful degree. Democratic leadership dumped the almost 3,000 page bill on the members (and the public) on Wednesday with only a couple days to review the massive spending. That includes over 4,000 pork projects in earmarks.
According to the Hill, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) alone has a long list of earmarks for his state ahead of his reelection bid. That includes 59 earmarks totaling nearly $80 million in the transportation and housing and urban development (HUD) section alone.
While Congress disavowed earmarks, the pork-ridden bill shows that both parties have abandoned the pledge. Spending trillions in the last couple years appears to have removed any sense of fiscal responsibility or accountability. We are now over $30 trillion in debt so what are a few pork items — or in Schumer’s case 142 such items. (Some argue that debt is really only $22 trillion and that debt does not matter).
It was a clever move at a perfect time. With Ukraine raging and people traumatized over the war, leadership like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal.) kept bringing questions back to $14 billion in aid for Ukraine. Members stressed that there was no time to waste — or in this case to read — before voting.
It is a familiar tactic on pork spending. You can hide an entire drove of pigs behind a single redeeming budget item.
What is most alarming is the level of duplicity. The bill was withheld by leadership to guarantee little time for the members, let alone the public, from seriously considering the specific expenditures. It shows utter contempt for the concept of public deliberation and debate in the legislation. One must accept the word of the leadership and vote in the blind.
In the meantime, even before this package, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget predicted that the debt-to-GDP ratio is at 101% and the total federal debt, including intragovernmental debt, may exceed 120%. Even if debt does not matter (as some have claimed) most citizens oppose pork barrel spending.
All of that is worth discussing but it is hard to have that debate when congressional leaders are dumping massive bills and calling for quick votes on little more than the cover page.