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.