In a legislative whirlwind last week, Congress enacted a 1,582-page omnibus appropriations bill that few members could have had time to read. The bill funds the government through the end of September, and averts the threat of another Tea Party-induced government shut-down of the sort our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed, has supported in the past.
In an email newsletter to constituents, Reed praised the omnibus for the cuts it makes to government spending. “There’s too much waste down in Washington,” Reed wrote, “and Americans deserve better – the next generation deserves better.”
There’s certainly waste in the omnibus. Reed didn’t mention, for example, that it gives the Pentagon $5 billion more than it requested for the war in Afghanistan, and $950 million more than requested for attack submarines.
The greatest problem with the omnibus, however, is that it fails to fund essential, common sense investments in infrastructure, education, health, and science. The next generation deserves new investments in these sectors rather than spending reductions, but the omnibus, by and large, fails to make them. Instead, it reduces spending to a level below that requested by the George W. Bush administration in its final year.
Medical research at the National Institutes of Health will be funded at $714 million below the level attained before the damaging sequester came into force, and the National Science Foundation will have $71 million less to spend than it did before the sequester. Job training and the Environmental Protection Agency will be cut, as will the Internal Revenue Service — much to the delight of the Tea Party and its wealthy backers.
The omnibus does include one great success for all those who truly want a better future for the next generation — it increases funding for the Head Start program by $1 billion, with half the added spending going to help children three years old and younger. This provision, which Rep. Reed didn’t mention in his newsletter, was a major achievement for Democrats.
Overall, however, the omnibus is another of those “best that could be hoped for” bills that the nation will have to settle for as long as Republicans control the House of Representatives. Here in New York’s 23rd, we can do our bit to end that control by voting for Martha Robertson in November.