Thoughts on the ‘Minibus’ Spending Bill

The House is scheduled to vote this evening on a fiscal 2012 “minibus” packaging of three appropriations bills (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD) agreed to in conference on Monday. It includes a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through December 16th, thus avoiding a government “shutdown.”

In sum, I think the bill is largely business as usual, although policymakers and those who subsist on the federal programs funded by the affected agencies will claim otherwise:

  • The legislation provides funding at the higher levels sought by the Democratic-controlled Senate – about $5.4 billion more than what the Republican-controlled House wanted. Overall funding versus fiscal 2011 is flat, but lower than fiscal 2010. It’s less than what the president wanted to spend, but that hurdle was so low a mouse would have tripped over it.
  • It includes $2.3 billion for disaster spending, which is excluded from the budget caps negotiated as part of the deal to increase the debt ceiling.
  • Some programs saw cuts, some programs saw increases. Anything of consequence that would rein in the size and scope of government? Not that I can see.
  • The housing lobbyists win again: the bill increases the size limit on mortgages that Federal Housing Administration can insure to $729,750. That principled decision was made at a time when a taxpayer bailout of the FHA is becoming increasingly likely.

Once again, Congress hits the snooze button.