Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Budgetary "martial law" means we still don't know how bad it is

Oil drilling in ANWR is only the most obvious threat from the budget bills rammed through by House Republican leadership early this morning, but it may not be the worst. Because the passage of the defense appropriations and budget-cut reconciliation bill was done under the "martial law rule," much of the fine print has yet to be read. This rule allows the leadership to force a vote without waiting until the next legislative day. The one-day procedure is designed for legislators to have an opportunity to look at what they are voting on. Didn't happen this time.

The martial law rule was invoked just before midnight Sunday. At 1:12 a.m. the 774-page conference report was filed in the House. At 5:43 a.m., after less than 40 minutes of debate, the House began its vote. Consequently we really don't know what was passed.

Major media accounts focused on the ANWR drilling in the defense appropriations bill. Was it proper to attach this unrelated and controversial measure to a defense bill in time of war? [Insert your answer here.]

It may be the phrase "unnoticed at the time of its passage" that will end up hurting most, because those words may apply to land mines packaged in the secrecy of the Republican caucus.

What we do know of the reconciliation bill is Scrooge-like cuts at the low end contrast with some Santa-sized giveaways to corporations at the upper end. Look for increases in Medicaid co-payments and premiums along with simultaneous reductions in some benefits. Watch the Senate-proposed increases in rebates from pharmaceutical companies disappear. (The Senate expected $10.5 billion in increased rebates from the drug manufacturers so beloved of Republican campaign finance managers. The "compromise" was $720 million.)

Other measures trumpeted as "fiscal discipline and limited government" by Mike Pence, R-Ind., include cuts in child support enforcement, new costs on student loans, slower SSI payouts, major cost increases to states for child care, and reductions in foster care benefits to some grandparents.

The fiscal discipline in continuing the enormous budget deficits and in granting ridiculous tax bonuses to the rich in time of war is similar to the personal discipline of a drunk in Las Vegas. We only wonder what the Republicans forgot to mention as they delivered their little present in the middle of the night.

Congratulations to Rep. Brian Baird for pegging it correctly, in part:

“The people’s elected representatives deserve time to read and debate legislation that will have such an enormous impact on our national defense and domestic programs,” said Congressman Baird. “It is a shame, a disgrace, and an embarrassment that these critically important bills were brought up in the dead of the night, laden with unrelated provisions, and passed by sheep-like Members who had but the slightest idea what was in them.”

Also see the CBPP discussion.

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