Our View | A Lump of Coal from Congress

Our View

What’s 4,155 pages long and spends $1.7 trillion of your money? 

Yes, it’s the newly enacted omnibus spending bill, passed last week just before Christmas when those who were there at the Capital wanted to leave town to go home for the holidays. Many members voted by proxy and didn’t even show up to vote. They voted from home, and did not read the bill. This bill was passed so fast that no one who voted for it read the entire bill, let alone debate it. 

And it’s filled with pork and earmarks. 

This is not a single budget bill written to fill a need. Instead, this is a package of 35 separate budget bills that were published throughout last year and did not pass, stapled together at the last minute before a government shutdown, voted on quickly because a given Congress member liked some part of one of the 35 bills.

It’s chock full of green and climate initiatives, yet the bill had to be flown on a private jet to the Virgin Islands for the president to sign it.  

The good news? 

There is $410 million in this bill for border security. The bad news? It’s for Jorden, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Oman. Not a single dollar for our border security.

Since no one in Congress read the bill, we thought you should know some of what’s in it. Just some of what’s in it, as we are still trying to find out what’s in the budget ourselves. 

• $3 million for a hip hop museum in the Bronx. 

• $3.6 million for the Michelle Obama hiking trail in Georgia.

• $524 million for the National institute of Health to fund a subsidiary to focus on minority health disparities research.

• $65 million for research of the salmon population.

• $3 million for bee-friendly highways under the “Pollinator-Friendly Practices on Roadsides and Highway Rights-of-Way Program.”

• $5 million “to examine the 7 impacts of culverts, roads, and bridges on threatened or endangered salmon populations.” 

• $7.5 million for research to develop “a better understanding of the domestic radicalization phenomenon” and “advancing evidence-based strategies for effective intervention and prevention.”

• More than $1.3 million for “workforce development activities” at a climate education center in Los Angeles. Another $3 million is earmarked for “clean energy workforce development” at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. 

• At least $575 million for “family planning/reproductive health … in areas where population growth threatens biodiversity or endangered species,” which critics believe is not only a promotion of abortion, but also an attempt to reduce population growth. 

• $86 million for gender advisory programs in the military. 

• $200 million for a gender equity fund and gender programs in… Pakistan. 

• $2.5 million for an educational program in a foreign country to teach their citizens to wear shoes. • More than $2 million to fund a “facility infrastructure upgrade” at the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum Inc. in Baltimore.

• $750,000 for “Transitional Housing and Services for LGBT and Gender Non-Conforming” in Albany, New York. 

• $1.5 million for the LOFT or “The Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center Inc.,” in New York.

• $750,000 for the acquisition of a building to create the Brooklyn Center for Social Justice, Entrepreneurship and the Arts and $1 million for Zora’s House in Columbus, Ohio, which describes itself as a “nonprofit coworking and community space built by and for women and gender expansive people of color.” 

It goes on and on. 

This bill was brokered by two retiring senators. They will never face reelection nor have to answer for the consequences of passing a nearly $2-trillion budget bill when we have a $31-trillion deficit. Some of these earmarks may be useful and needed, but can we afford them, now? 

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, is on the very powerful appropriations committee and he is one of the senators who brokered the bill. He is retiring but not before he included $666 million of earmarks for Alabama. 

Before the last presidential election, we were promised a “return to normalcy.”

Looks like we got it.

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