The White House blasted
the final appropriations bill produced by the Republican Senate in a letter sent Wednesday. The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill is a disaster, top to bottom, from appropriations levels to critical government operations to the slew of ideological riders attached, and the administration is having none of it.
In addition to attaching a grab-bag of bank deregulation to agency budgets, the Republican-backed bill would also make deep cuts to tax evasion enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service, and lock in budget cuts from sequestration at agencies overseeing risky Wall Street trading. The bill would also undermine the Federal Communications Commission's new net neutrality rules.
"The inclusion of these provisions threatens to undermine an orderly appropriations process," Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan warned in a letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).
Donovan's letter reflects this year's more proactive Obama administration response to GOP budgeting, aimed at fighting off ideological riders and deep funding cuts. Last year, Republicans successfully embedded a subsidy for Wall Street derivatives trading into a budget deal the president signed into law. By sending early letters offering detailed objections to GOP plans, the White House hopes to steer final government funding negotiations in a direction more favorable to Democratic priorities, according to an administration official.
The bill would gut Wall Street reform for big banks and would completely restructure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, stripping its independence by creating a politicized board of directors and making its funding subject to congressional approval. Another provision would prevent the FCC from fully implementing net neutrality rules. Yet another would block funding for enforcing new clean air rules. And that's just a sliver of what it would do.
OMB's letter highlights one of the most egregious, hypocritical cuts by Republicans. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have been using the hack of the Office of Personnel Management database as the cudgel to try to force through a bad cybersecurity bill (CISA) that doesn't actually do much to fix the problems at OPM. The appropriations bill actually makes further cuts to OPM's budget, reducing the White House's budget for it by $7.6 million, which "would significantly reduce the resource allocation for OPM's on-going information technology (IT) modernization effort and cybersecurity upgrades."
The sort of good news is that the actual appropriations process is hopelessly bogged down in Congress after House Speaker John Boehner bungled it all up with the Confederate flag debacle. He can't bring a bill to the floor without Democrats offering up amendments on the flag to remind the public that Republicans want to restore it. As a result, there won't actually be these stand-alone appropriations bills setting policy. Instead, Congress will have to pass yet another continuing resolution to fund government operations. Not that that will be easy or without ideological pitfalls, since Ted Cruz and his pals in the House have decided that they need to have a shutdown over Planned Parenthood defunding.