December 17, 2010
McConnell throws Reid under the Omnibus
Thomas Lifson
The Tea Parties have had their first major victory, as Harry Reid pulled the pork-laden omnibus spending bill from Senate consideration, in the face of Republican opposition capable of winning at least 41 votes to sustain a filibuster. GOP senators like McConnell who had helped put pork into the bill woke up and realized the electorate was serious when it rejected earmarks. McConnell, aware of the changed mood of the country, worked hard to persuade GOP senators. Robert Costa and Andrew Stiles of NPR report:

Retiring GOP senators like Kit Bond (MO), George Voinovich (OH), and Robert Bennett (UT) were considered by numerous Senate aides to be, at varying points, susceptible to Reid's machinations. Other Republicans rumored to be mulling a 'yea' vote on the omnibus included Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Sen. Thad Cochran (MS), who together requested more than $500 million worth of earmarks in the bill.

McConnell's challenge was to softly cajole pork-friendly Republicans, many of whom hold senior status in the upper chamber, to abandon their home-state projects. At one point in the deliberations, Reid mentioned nine Republicans (though not by name) who had signaled their support. Senior GOP aides dispute that number, but either way, the bill appears to have come dangerously close to passing. It took McConnell's flurry of phone calls, the zealous efforts of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and threats from Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) to force a reading of the bill to ultimately crash the omnibus.

The Democrats had planned to cram the bill down the nation's fiscal throat using the threat of a government shutdown. Now, facing serious opposition to this trick, they will have to settle for a simple continuing resolution, keeping spending at current levels instead of nearly 2000 pages of complexity with no time for scrutiny. The new Congress, where the GOP controls the House of Representatives, where spending bills must originate, will craft next year's budget.

This is a wonderful Christmas present for all who care about the nation's financial fate. But there is still a lump of coal in our collective stocking, consisting of the $800 billion-plus added to the deficit by the tax bill, larded with unemployment compensation extension and other spending insisted upon by the Democrats in return for not raising taxes.

Still, we must congratulate the tea parties on their first major victory in Washington.


Michael Geer points out that with the omnibus bill pulled, the odious Food Safety Bill -- essentially a massive federal power grab -- also dies (at least for now). The next Congress will surely see similar legislation introduced, so we must continue to inform the public of the danger of putting unelected bureaucrats in the position of regulating the smallest details of food production.

Rick Moran adds:

Now the hard part begins:

Senate Democrats abruptly abandoned an omnibus budget bill for the coming year, pushing major spending decisions into the next Congress and giving Republicans immense new leverage to confront President Barack Obama priorities.
The decision Thursday night sweeps away months of bipartisan work by the Senate Appropriations Committee which had crafted the $1.1 trillion bill to meet spending targets embraced by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) himself prior to the elections.

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), an old McConnell friend, worked actively to round up as many as nine potential Republican votes for the compromise, but these numbers rapidly evaporated amid personal attacks and the uproar this week over spending earmarks in the package.
McConnell, embarrassed by reports on his own earmarks in the omnibus, went to the Senate floor Thursday to propose a one page, "clean" two month extension of the current stop gap funding resolution that has kept the government funded since Oct. 1. And as if caught with their hands in the cookie jar, he and other top Republicans vowed to do everything in their powers to kill the omnibus to square themselves with their tea party backers.

Earmarks or no, the government will begin to run out of money again in early February - just about the time that Obama presents his budget for next year. That's when the battle royal will start and where we will see how "reformed" the GOP caucus has become.

Also on the horizon is the fight to raise the debt limit. That, too, will feature fiscal hawks holding Obama's feet to the fire on spending cuts.

It will be a make or break year for Republicans in Congress who may find it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain fiscal responsibility while funding the government to keep it going. ... er_th.html