With Christmas just a week away and the new year nearly upon us, Congress came within a whisper of yet another potential government shutdown and once again demonstrated its inability to make substantive spending cuts and deliver the American people the reforms necessary to secure America’s fiscal future. Rather than produce a timely budget by way of standard operating procedure, congressional leaders again butted up against the deadline and reached a deal on a trillion-dollar “mega-omnibus” nine-bill appropriations package that sadly is yet another disappointing failure to rein in government spending.

Patrick Louis Knudsen, the Grover M. Hermann Senior Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at The Heritage Foundation, explains that the deal, which is expected to be voted on today, comes up far short in instilling fiscal discipline in Washington and, equally troubling, “allows everyone to vote for something he likes, while taxpayers pick up the tab”:

The main omnibus measure, formally the Final Consolidated Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2055), spends a total of $914.8 billion in annualized budget authority (BA) for fiscal year 2012, which started on October 1. (Agencies covered by the nine bills have been funded by continuing resolutions until now.)

When the legislation is added to the three spending bills already enacted, total discretionary BA for the year comes to $1,042.9 billion. That is effectively equal to the bloated $1.043 trillion cap in the ironically named Budget Control Act (BCA)–the product of the summer’s debt ceiling debate–and is $31.6 billion above the House-passed budget resolution.

Knudsen explains that while the mega-omnibus deal is over-the-top in spending, it falls short in other areas. Chiefly, it provides too little for national security. The $518 billion for defense in the deal is just slightly above 2011 levels and far below the $530 billion passed by the House earlier in the year–which was also lower than what is needed to maintain America’s defense capabilities.

And while some might spin the $1.043 trillion figure as a victory, that price tag doesn’t truly represent how much Congress will spend. In addition to the mega-omnibus deal, Knudsen writes, the House will consider an additional $8.1 billion “disaster” relief measure to pay for past events like Hurricane Irene or even, believe it or not, Hurricane Katrina! And, when combined with earlier spending amounts, brings disaster spending to $10.4 billion over and above the spending limits in the bloated BCA. Heritage explains that these disaster funds are a misguided use of taxpayer dollars. What’s more, though the deal attempts to pay for that spending with budget offsets, Knudsen says those likely won’t occur, meaning that Washington spending will increase, as usual.

And that’s what’s so disappointing about the plan. It has been some 1,000 days since the Senate passed a budget–it is clear that fiscal discipline is not emerging from that chamber anytime soon. And the House, which in April passed a budget resolution that would have set America on a stronger fiscal path, began the year with such great promise. The new leadership in Washington, ushered in by the Tea Party wave of 2010, pledged to be serious stewards of the people’s pocketbook. With last night’s mega-omnibus bill, those who were eager to right the fiscal ship have been silenced by leadership that prefers bigger government, higher spending, and slinking out of the Capitol with an appropriations package that comes up short by spending too much.

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