Omnibus Bill Dies Amid New Pressure Over Pork

Sets up Obama for a big budget fight next year--and maybe a government shutdown

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Pork-loving Mitch McConnell was "shocked, shocked," Politico's David Rogers writes, when he discovered the omnibus budget bill before the Senate was laden with bacon. Though he had packed the legislation with $112.8 million in his own pork, McConnell has declared himself a vegetarian after feeling the pressure from earmark-hating Tea Partiers. Senate Republicans followed his lead and blocked the spending bill from passing. But the failure to pass the legislation throws the government into "a genuine fiscal crisis--at once serious and rich in political farce," Rogers reports. The money runs out Saturday night.

"Democrats have only themselves to blame for failing to pass any of the 12 annual appropriations bills that fund the day-to-day operations of the government," Rogers writes. It sets President Obama up for a fight with Republicans in February--one that could potentially lead to a dreaded reprise of the 1995 government shut down. But the GOP faces its own problems, torn by an internal "culture war" between the old-school pork lovers and new Tea Party allies.

A few reactions to the demise of the dreaded omnibus.

  • McConnell Did His Job, The National Review's Rich Lowry explains. "It was to be the appropriators' last hurrah. In the end, they couldn't see it through, and it's not going to get any better for them next year. Why did it go down? You had Jim DeMint rallying outside opposition .... Then, you had Mitch McConnell on the phone all day with Republican appropriators--Reid's base of support on the bill--twisting their arms to come out against it. ... Again and again over the last two years, McConnell has done what a minority leader needs to do--keep his troops united."
  • Republicans Look Silly Trashing What They Asked For, The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen says. "This was, after all, a spending bill Republicans stuffed with earmarks, only to then whine about how awful the bill is because of all the earmarks. Worse, the Senate Republican leadership complained that the omnibus was too big, despite the fact that the Senate Republican leadership had already agreed to the exact size of the omnibus. Months of bipartisan work went into shaping this bill, all of which was trashed in a partisan tantrum."
  • Welcome to the Tea Party Era, Taylor Marsh writes, showing a grudging support for her ideological foes. The Democrats don't seem to have the necessary "strength of purpose." The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are fighting like pros. "You don't change, instead you just bear down and ride it out. What you should never do is sell out. That's a life lesson ... because there is no shame in losing a fight well engaged. But there is great embarrassment when you sell your soul."
  • Bad for the Bureaucracy, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein reports. The failure of the bill means that Harry Reid will "fall back on continuing funding at current levels--never a good thing for the federal bureaucracy, as priorities change and programs that we needed last year should lose money while programs that we need next year should gain it."
  • The Death of Omnibus Spending Was a Long Time Coming, Slate's Dave Weigel reports. Since 2006, new rules have made the appropriating process more transparent, and now the public can look online to see each Senator's earmarks. "When the omnibus was released this week, so were the individual requests made by Republican senators," he explains. "The increasing transparency of the earmark process was going to make it tougher for Republicans to support this bill and get away with it. There is nothing--literally, nothing--that currently motivates most Republicans to send money back home."
  • We Can't Risk a Government Shutdown in This Economy, Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer argues. Though some say Republicans will try to force Obama to concede to their spending cut demands or risk shutting down the government like in 1995, Mencimer disagrees. "There's one big difference today," she explains: "the economy. The dire financial straits of the country and many of its residents may have helped fuel the tea party movement, yet shutting down the federal government in the middle of a huge recession and nearly 10 percent unemployment would probably be far more grave and destabilizing than it was in 1995, when the unemployment rate was half that." In short, "if tens of millions of people wake up one day and discover that they aren't going to be able feed their families thanks to GOP quibbles over what amounts to less than 1 percent of the spending bill, the tea party and their GOP allies could be in for one hell of a blame-game."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.