December 16, 2015
WASHINGTON December 16, 2015 - Congress has released a $1.1 trillion spending omnibus that—with about $50 billion in spending authority above the Budget Control Act—Heritage Foundation experts call a “missed opportunity to rein in wasteful and excessive spending.”
“While higher spending levels were agreed to back in November, Congress had no obligation to spend up to the cap,” said Paul Winfree, director of Heritage’s Thomas A. Roe Institute for economic policy studies. “This bill also contains a number of budget gimmicks that allow the bill to spend billions more than the November agreement.”
Spending limits present a ceiling, not a goal, Winfree contends. “With annual interest costs on the debt on course to reach nearly $800 billion within 10 years, Congress should have used this as an opportunity to enact meaningful policy reforms and embrace the budget they agreed to earlier this year. This omnibus also shortchanges defense at a time when national security should be a priority by using the war fund to pay for non-security programs.”
When it comes to leveraging the omnibus to govern with policy riders, Heritage experts conclude that Congress mostly disappointed. From continuing funds for abortion-providers like Planned Parenthood to failing to restrict taxpayer dollars for the Obama administration’s illegal and overreaching waters of the United States rule, there isn’t much to laud in this bill.
Ending the ban on oil exports will create more economic opportunities for Americans, increase employment and economic growth, and augment the overall efficiency of global oil markets. Unfortunately, the bill also gives the oil industry a special handout by providing small domestic refiners with a tax credit for the costs they incur from transporting oil.
The bill also continues a provision to prohibit CMS Program Management funds from being used to make payments under Obamacare’s Risk Corridor program. This will prohibit the administration from using undedicated funds to bailout unprofitable qualified health insurance plans in the individual and small group markets.
On the tax extenders bill that was also released, research fellow Curtis Dubay says Congress once again dropped the ball by not going through each policy in the package—making those that reflect sound policy permanent, and eliminating those that are not sound policy permanently in a revenue neutral way.
“Further complicating matters is that Congress included a delay of certain Obamacare taxes without reducing Obamacare spending, including the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health insurance plans,” Dubay notes. “This is the wrong approach to that tax, which should instead be restructured into a more useful cap on the tax-free amount of employer-provided health insurance.”