Washington, D.C. -- "I could not in good conscience bring myself to vote for a 4,000 page, 40-pound bill full of tasty treats and new pet presidential projects. The full text of the thing was not made available until during the vote," said Wyoming U.S. Senator Mike Enzi who was one of the lawmakers to vote against a $500 billion spending package. "The era of big government is back, without having truly left us."
The Senate passed H.R. 4328, the omnibus appropriations bill 65-29 early this morning. The House passed the measure 333-95 yesterday. President Clinton is expected to sign the measure. The bill is a combination of a number of different appropriations bills that Clinton threatened to veto. It contains more than $500 billion of taxpayer money, about one-third the federal budget for the operation of government agencies, departments and programs.
Enzi said there are some good things in the bill. He listed increased defense appropriations, more education funding, agricultural measures and some disaster aid, but he said the good spending is riddled with strings and dwarfed by increased spending on new social programs Clinton wanted.
"By passing this bill we spent nearly $20 billion more than we have in our budget," said Enzi. "The administration has been preaching all along that we need to save the so-called budget surplus for social security, but the president did not offer a single solution to the problem. Instead, he demands we pay billions more than we have and negotiates a budget deal that is full of backdoor spending. Some examples are more than $190 million to advance a global warming treaty we have not approved, hundreds of thousands of dollars to study caffeine gum for soldiers. The bill also contains $1.2 billion in new federal money to hire teachers. The catch is we don't know how the teachers will be hired, where the teachers will go or if the money to keep them working will be there.
"The president is all talk, but we let him get away with it because there is funding for one project or another for everyone," said Enzi. "We know the president's so-called emergencies, such as funding for the troops in Bosnia and the Y2K computer problem, while necessary, are hardly unexpected emergencies. He used these "emergencies" as cover for increased spending on other federal programs."
Enzi said the passage of this omnibus spending bill that was thrown together at the last minute is a prime example of why federal spending should be put together on a two-year basis.
"By beginning the appropriations process April 15, to remind us it's taxpayer money we are spending, we would concentrate only on where the money should go and nothing else until we get it done. This way we aren't forced to throw a hodgepodge of bills together in one big package at the last minute without time for adequate review like we did this time," said Enzi. "A biennial appropriation would give us time to reflect on where we spent our money and free up time for us to work on the other crucial problems our country is plagued with, including oversight of federal agencies.
"Relaxing the process to get increased funding for new programs is hardly the way to get government spending under control," said Enzi. "Our process only encourages deviations from the Government Performance and Results Act, which requires agencies to be accountable for their budgets."