“Cromnibus” arrived late on the American scene after months of contentious avoidance. Members of the 113th Congress rushed to pass a spending bill so called “Cromnibus” for 2014-2015 totaling $1.1 trillion while only missing one day of scheduled vacation.
The very name “Cromnibus” conjures up visions of a spectacular movie about the Roman Empire complete with golden men racing in golden chariots tossing golden coins to the Senatus of Rome just before the empire fell.
Despite its ancient reference, we are different now. We don’t have chariots or golden coins. We have special interests and campaign contributions.
Apparently many special interest amendments were attached to the spending bill but only a few survived in the race to draw the attention of voting members in the final moments of fast-track negotiations. Those that won a place saw their moneyed interest bond with the spending bill as it sped its way through the process of shaping the state of our nation.
“Cromnibus” was nearly derailed in the last days when two senators decided this was yet another time to use the process and thwart the President. They rose to insert something that would effectively defund the President’s recent policy on immigration.
Members of both parties rolled their eyes and started working on other things until the rebuffed senators removed their objections.
They are thought to be the source of whimpering heard in the Senate cloakroom during the rest of the session. One would think they should know better than to mess with Congressional vacations.
The President signed the highly decorated bill and off they went, leaving political pundits to opine over the gilded fruit of political pickleball.
You will have to forgive me for not taking the effort more seriously given the only goal seemed to be to avoid a government shutdown. “Cromnibus” was a whirlwind of activity reminiscent of dust devils filled with tumbleweed or better said tumbleweed filled with devils.
Moreover, the spending bill was debated and passed in just 48 hours during the busiest time of year for most Americans. So in case you missed it, I will point out some “Cromnibus” provisions surprisingly unrelated to government spending.
Modern golden coins
Perhaps most befitting the name was that “Cromnibus” included a provision allowing for millions more golden coins to fall into political party coffers.
The limit of campaign contributions to one political party by a couple was raised to $3 million during a two-year period. That’s a tenfold increase and an amount that boggles the mind of most of us who can’t imagine having a net worth of that much.
Short-term memory loss
Many of us are still in shock at the inclusion of a reform to the Dodd-Frank law that will reunite financial derivatives and bank accounts protected by the FDIC. What was it about the Great Recession that would cause Congress to sow the seeds for yet another economic calamity?
Pension law upended
It’s common knowledge that many pension plans lost value during the Great Recession but it isn’t common knowledge that certain plans are insured by a federal agency under a 1974 law. Said federal agency is running out of money. The law guarantees pensions provided under multi-employer plans unless the plan goes bankrupt.
Better check your pension plan just in case this affects you because Cromnibus now allows plans that are projected to run out of money in 10 to 20 years to cut benefits up to 60 percent.
The apparent reasoning is that the plan will survive even if the people don’t.
Let them eat salt
I see now that Congress is not reading my columns that seek to embarrass if not shame them into caring less about the health of children than meeting the demands of contributors. One of the provisions prohibits the federal government from requiring less salt in school lunches and provides the option of obtaining an exemption from having whole wheat pasta and tortillas.
Just say no
Some actions were outright prohibited such as the closing of Guantanamo Bay detention facility, blocking coal projects by the Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation and implementation of the International Arms Trade Treaty, which sets common standards and attempts to reduce illicit arms trade.
Congress spent 48 hours drilling down on a spending bill that should have been debated over weeks and should have been completed last fall. A few tokens were given out to early childhood education and Pell Grants but overall the bill is not about common sense or common people.
Our Sen. Murray and Rep. Kilmer voted for the bill. Sen. Cantwell voted against it. (Note: Kilmer since introduced a House Bill to restore contribution caps.)
The government may not have shut down but sure seems like Congress did.
Although Congress did manage to include provisions that prohibit requiring farmers to report “greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems” – that would be cows — or requiring ranchers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for “methane emissions” produced by bovine flatulence or belching (as reported by the New York Times).
I can see why — “Cromnibus” is looking more like a manure management system.
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.