In the December budget bill, Republicans gave themselves and their friends a number of Christmas gifts. The so called Cromnibus bill is a pale reflection of what Republican legislators will do when they have even greater control in 2015.
After the House voted in favor of a 1.1 trillion government funding bill, the Senate followed suit and passed the bill on Saturday night (December 13) with a vote of 56 to 40. To avoid a government shutdown, Republicans demanded some non-germane amendments that amount to big gifts for themselves and their friends in the oil industry and on Wall Street.
In addition to a number of anti-environmental provisions, the bill weakens the Dodd-Frank act that placed restrictions on banks risky derivative trading that caused the financial crisis and subsequent recession of 2008. The bill will also allow wealthy donors to contribute up $3.1 million per election cycle which is more than three times the current limit. This opens the doors to even more Republican funding from oil interests and Wall Street. These two measures amount to cronyism hence the appellation “Cromnibus bill.”
In addition to a host of anti-environmental riders in the bill, the fossil fuel industry benefited from the bill’s pro-highway transportation support and a decrease in funding for the relatively more efficient train travel. Amtrak operating subsidies would go down from $340 million to $250 million. Smart growth investment through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program (created in the 2009 stimulus package) was cut by $100 million.
The bill, which funds most of the government for the rest of the fiscal year or until the month of September will be signed by President Obama this week.
Some Republicans wanted to use the bill to defund the EPA’s authority to protect waterways and the clean energy plan, however these initiatives were dropped before the vote. The Senate was forced to work over the weekend thanks to Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) opposition to President Obama’s immigration related executive orders.
The bill was strongly condemned by a wide range of environmental organizations not only for what it contains but also for what it means for the coming legislative session in the new year.
Republicans are wringing their hands in glee as they look forward to the forthcoming legislative session in 2015. When Republicans bolster their ranks in the House and take control of the Senate, we can expect more non-germane amendments to advance their anti-environmental agenda.
The new year will not mark the beginning of compromise, it will herald the dawn of unprecedented extortion from the GOP.
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