Dem Obey: ‘Damn Right’ Bill Process Was Secretive

Special to HarpBlaster.com News Wire

WASHINGTON — The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) last week blasted House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wisc., for “presiding over a dysfunctional, chaotic federal budget circus.”

In a flurry of activity yesterday, Chairman Obey forced Congress to vote on a stop-gap continuing resolution worth $1 trillion in spending with less than 24 hours to review its contents, CAGW said. The rush was aimed at getting lawmakers out of Washington as quickly as possible to campaign before the November election and to short-circuit any in-depth scrutiny of the billions of dollars in wasteful spending.

The bill came to the House floor under a closed rule, which prohibited amendments and passed 370 to 58.

“Chairman Obey’s actions, and the actions of the entire Democratic leadership team in the House represent a stunning abdication of fiscal responsibility,” said CCAGW President Tom Schatz. “A significant number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are allowing themselves to be steamrolled and, once again, demonstrating blatant hostility to the rights of taxpayers to know how their money is being spent.

“The deadline for approving appropriations bills is the same each year, September 30, and if the Democrats had done their job over the past nine months, this legislation could have been deliberately considered, reviewed, and publicized,” Schatz said. “Democrats took over Congress promising greater transparency; this is completely contrary to that claim.”

The bill, H.R. 2638, will fund nine of the twelve appropriations bills at fiscal year 2008 levels until March 6, 2009.  It contains billions in congressional earmarks. H.R. 2638 also contains language which appropriates $7 billion of an authorized $50 billion in loan guarantees to bailout Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers.

The bill contains a $600 billion “security omnibus” bill combining the remaining three appropriations bills (Military Con/Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Homeland Security), as well as $22.9 billion in so-called disaster relief. Lawmakers also rammed through a separate $600 billion Defense Authorization bill, which passed by a vote of 392 to 39.

When asked by Bloomberg News about whether the process has been secretive, Obey bluntly replied “You’re damn right it has because if it’s done in the public it would never get done.”

He wanted to “avoid his colleagues’ ‘pontificating’on the content of the legislation” because “that’s what politicians do when this stuff is done in full view of the press.”  He said “we’ve done this the old fashioned way by brokering agreements in order to get things done and I make no apology for it.”

“It is not surprising that taxpayers hold Congress in such abysmal regard.  At this fragile time, when taxpayers are facing unprecedented economic pressures and uncertainty, Congress has made a mockery of the federal budget process and cannot be taken seriously when it preens about accountability and transparency.  In my years in Washington, I have rarely seen a bigger sham of the legislative process,” Schatz concluded.

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

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