Opinion

January 14, 2014 (FRC) – This New Year's, one person who isn't going on a diet is Uncle Sam. In the spending package released Monday, Congress blows by the old sequester caps, giving leaders a trillion-dollar rope to string along taxpayers. The bill, which at 1,582 pages is about as long as the local phone book, was more than three and half years in the making. But not everyone thinks the final product was worth the wait. With the two parties racing to pass the bill, it's almost impossible to give each department's proposal the scrutiny it deserves. And, as Americans know from the ObamaCare debate, a bill longer than the Gutenberg Bible leaves plenty of pockets to hide inefficiencies, duplicities, and pork.

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Still, if Congress gives this omnibus a green light, it would mark the first time since 2011 that leaders have managed to bundle all 12 appropriations measures into one fiscal year proposal. Since then, the House and Senate have been relying on a patchwork process of continuing resolutions, or CRs — short-term deals that helped the two sides avoid major sticking points like abortion funding and ObamaCare.

Under an umbrella bill like this one, government agencies would be funded through September 30. Congressman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who tag-teamed with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to craft the plan, said, “As with any compromise, not everyone will like everything in this bill…” So far, that seems to be the case, as conservatives air plenty of legitimate gripes about the plan.

For pro-lifers, the outcome was a mixed bag. The FRC team worked around-the-clock to defend key policy riders, like the Hyde, Helms, Dornan, and other amendments that ban taxpayer-funded abortions in D.C., the federal government, and foreign aid. After a long battle, we also managed to gouge $10 million from “family planning” funds for organizations like Planned Parenthood in Title X and preserve the modest $5 million allotted for abstinence education.

Despite that success, Republicans failed to achieve one of the biggest priorities of the pro-life community: attaching conscience protections to a must-pass piece of legislation. As Sen. Mikulski said, “ObamaCare lives another day.” But for millions of Americans, religious liberty does not. For months, groups like FRC had stressed the importance of exempting employers from the HHS mandate. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) pushed intently behind the scenes for language that would spare Americans from paying for pills and procedures that violate their beliefs — but in the end, the White House won out. Although the bill makes no meaningful dent in ObamaCare, it does take a $1 billion bite out of the program's slush fund.

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For military hawks, the Defense Department will not suffer as much as last year, when it bore the brunt of the spending cuts. But based on the growing attacks on religious freedom and the latest revelations of Robert Gates, monetary reductions should be the least of our concerns when it comes to the military. Even veterans are getting the short end of the omnibus stick, as a wave of pension cuts are set to take effect in retirement pay. “I'm glad the omnibus bill restores benefits for disabled veterans and spouses of those who have died in harm's way,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) explained. “But we should be restoring our full promise to our service members, and I will be working to ensure this happens.”

At least proponents of school choice will be happy to know that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) won his $16 million fight to fund a voucher program in D.C. Unfortunately, that pales in comparison to the $1 billion bump that the controversial Head Start and Early Head Start are celebrating — despite the government's analysis that the programs not only failed kids, but may have harmed them in the process!

Reprinted with permission from FRC

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