Senate Republicans have spent the last few days acting shocked and outraged over this year’s omnibus spending bill, which would fund the government through next Sept. 30. Republicans are threatening to derail the lame duck session and shutdown the government over the “disrespectful” measure.
Leading the Republicans’ reckless campaign over the omnibus spending bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor this morning to publicly denounce the 2,000 page bill. Aghast over its physical enormity, McConnell parroted the GOP talking points on the bill: it was dropped in the dead of night, it “runs just under 2,000 pages,” and “it spends more than half a billion dollars per page.” McConnell dropped his own one-page continuing resolution that would hold the government at current spending levels until Feb. 18.
Overhearing McConnell’s tantrum, Senate Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) came to the floor. Acknowledging that the omnibus does indeed cost over a trillion dollars, Durbin offered one small helpful reminder to assuage McConnell’s “horror” over the figure: that $1.1 trillion number was “exactly the amount” he asked for himself:
DURBIN: I’m a member of the Appropriations Committee. And I remember what happened…this is the reality…It’s true it’s over a trillion dollars. In fact, it’s $1.1 trillion in this bill. But what hasn’t been said by Senator McConnell and Senator Kyl, that’s exactly the amount that they asked for! Senator McConnell came to the Senate Appropriations Committee and said Republicans will not support this bill unless you bring the spending down to $1.108 trillion. That is exactly what we bring down to the floor to be considered.
So to stand back in horror and look at $1.1. trillion and say where did this figure come from, it came from Senator Mitch McConnell in a motion he made before the Senate Appropriations Committee. It reflects the amount that he said was the maximum we should spend in this current calendar year on our appropriation bills. He prevailed. It’s the same number as the so-called Sessions-McCaskill figure that’s been debated back and forth on this floor, voted repeatedly by Republicans to be the appropriate total number. So we have the bipartisan agreement on the total number, and now the Republican leader comes to the floor, stands in horror at the idea of $1.1 trillion, the very same number he asked for in this bill. You can’t have it both ways.
Durbin is correct. McConnell and his GOP comrades put their request in writing. The Sessions-McCaskill proposal Durbin references proposed a spending cap of $1.1 trillion on total discretionary for FY2011. On July 13, GOP members of the Appropriations Committee penned a letter expressly stating that, in a time where “the enormity of the Federal debt poses a direct threat to our national security and demands restraint Federal spending,” they would not support bills that “do not conform” to the discretionary top-line number of the Sessions-McCaskill proposal. McConnell was the lead signature, with 11 GOP senators including Judd Gregg (NH), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Bennet (UT), Kit Bond and Lisa Murkowski (AK) signing on as well.
Durbin then took down McConnell’s other talking points on the bill one by one. As to the “surprise” spending bill, Durbin noted that the bill was posted a few days ago and is a combination of every appropriations bill debated and agreed upon with “full bipartisan cooperation” from every appropriations subcommittee. So the 2,000 pages, he explained to McConnell, should be “no surprise” because it “reflects the work of 12 subcommittees and 12 Republican senators who helped to assemble and to devise the contents of that bill.”
And as for the war on pre-Christmas, Durbin said to complain about holiday deadlines is “to ignore the obvious.” Citing the GOP’s “record-breaking numbers” in use of the filibuster and threats to read readily-available legislation on the floor, Durbin noted that the GOP pledges to “burn off hours on the clock” while “complaining that we’re ruining Christmas.”
But as for the irony of the GOP stance on earmarks, Durbin noted, as many have, that to take a self-righteous posture against billions in spending you personally requested is nothing more than “the height of hypocrisy.”