A $1.1 trillion spending bill is headed for President Barack Obama’s signature as members of the state’s congressional delegation split on the votes Friday (Dec. 18). The House voted 316-113 Friday morning to approve HR 2029, which funds the government through Sept. 30, 2016.
U.S. Reps. French Hill, R-Little Rock, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, voted yes, with U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, voting no.
Late Friday morning, the Senate voted 65-33 to approve the bill, with U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., voting no.
Arkansas’ senior Senator said the bill included the repeal of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), funding for the Delta Regional Authority and some tax benefits for small businesses, but the “irresponsible spending” outweighed the positives.
“This is a setback to efforts to control federal spending. This $1.1 trillion bill grows the federal government and busts the budget caps with $50 billion in new spending. This bill does little to provide regulatory relief for Arkansas farmers, small businesses and community banks, while continuing to fund the worst of the Obama administration’s overreach,” Boozman said in a statement.
Cotton said the bill failed miserably in meeting its objectives.
“A rotten process yields a rotten result, and this 2,000-page, trillion-dollar bill is rotten to its core, resulting from secret, backroom negotiations and getting dumped in the dead of the night on Americans with barely two days before the vote. Corporate lobbyists had a field day, but working Americans lost out. Take just one sordid example: this bill will quadruple the number of foreign guest-worker visas at a time when millions of Americans are still looking for full-time work and working-class wages remain stagnant,” Cotton said.
The four Arkansas members of the U.S. House said Friday that the last vote of the year came down to priorities.
“In any negotiation there is give and take, and I certainly would have liked to see more in this Omnibus agreement, including language to block some of President Obama’s most harmful policies such as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and his plan to allow Syrian refugees into America,” said Womack, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee. “However, failing to provide for our men and women in uniform is simply not an option, and this bill does so while strengthening our nation’s security by tightening requirements under our visa waiver program and increasing funding for our troops as they prepare to face more radical and more complex enemies.”
Westerman said the issue came down to spending. He called the bill “convoluted.”
“The Omnibus – above all else – increases deficit spending. As an individual committed to fiscal responsibility, I could not vote for this bill that would increase deficit spending by billions of dollars,” Westerman said. “The Omnibus was also a convoluted bill that addressed hundreds of different issues, mixing policy riders with appropriations. This bill did not follow regular order in the House, allowing items into the bill without open debate or committee review. If regular order had been followed in the House, we could have debated issues such as further funding of Planned Parenthood, money for settlement of Syrian refugees to the United States, and many other fiscal and policy issues that are important to Americans.”
Crawford agreed, saying the bill raised the debt.
“This omnibus package breaks through our budget caps with $50 billion in new spending, new spending that adds to our national debt at a time when the federal reserve is raising interest rates on that debt. The bill did include several policies which would help move America forward, but those policies did not outweigh the cost of increasing our national debt, which is already more than $19 trillion. Next year this body must rededicate itself to prioritizing permanent spending controls and policies that truly reflect the will of a majority of the American people,” Crawford said.
Hill, who voted for the bill, said the lack of support from Democrats on the issue made the Omnibus bill a reality.
“Throughout the course of this year, the House passed all twelve appropriations bills out of Committee and passed six of those bills out of the House. This is how the appropriations process should work, and if the Senate Democrats hadn’t stymied regular order and dealt with individual appropriations bills in a timely way and the President hadn’t insisted on holding military funding hostage to support more deficit spending for his domestic agenda, we would not have had to pass this after-midnight spending deal today,” Hill said in a statement. “The inaction of Senate Democrats led us to today, and while I don’t like these year-end, all-encompassing spending bills, I voted for this one because the good significantly outweighs the bad. Part of being an effective legislator is understanding that any opportunity to move the needle in the right direction — no matter how incremental the movement — is a positive outcome.”