Last week marked the end of Big Bucks Hunting Season – and our nation’s top hunters made out big this year. They did not need to go to an arcade or Buffalo Wild Wings to play – they just needed to be in the room where it happens.
Before rank and file members and the public could see the first page of the 2232 page, $1.3 trillion spending bill, Congressional leaders who drafted the bill divvying up Americans’ tax dollars already had the press releases to celebrate their hauls ready to go.
To understand the contradiction between Republican campaign rhetoric on fiscal responsibility versus Republican actions once elected – look no further than the press releases issued by the principal Republican negotiators on spending legislation celebrating all the tax money they got for their respective states. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a list of 11 provisions totaling $1.9 billion that will benefit Kentucky – including funding for a program that was recommended for cuts by President Obama and elimination by President Trump. Incoming appropriations Chairman Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) also toted his haul, listing out 12 provisions of interest to Alabama – including securing $110 million to design and build a new federal courthouse in Huntsville. Not to be outdone – soon-to-be-retired and outgoing Appropriations chairman Senator Thad Cochran released a 19 page document with all the Mississippi wins – including the near-tripling of resources for a controversial catfish inspection program that has been recommended for elimination.
Lead Republicans charged with negotiating appropriations bills are not trying to restrain spending – they are trying to redirect it.
Of course, Democratic leaders also got in on the celebrating. Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer released a series of press releases about the wins for New York, including:
- $132 million in federal funding for the Alexandria Bay Port of Entry Project
- $12 million for a program to protect Long Island sound, its highest level in 25 years (when it was a quarter of this size – it still had room to fund a live animal show at an aquarium and 30 sail trips on a schooner around the sound)
- $40 Million for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation
- $21 million in additional federal funding for Rome Lab in Syracuse
- $300 million in federal funding for a new training vessel at SUNY Maritime College
- $75 million for the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) and its OMEGA Laser Facility
Ranking member of the appropriations committee Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also released a statement –titled: “Leahy Notches Key Victories For Vermont In Appropriations Bill.” That bounty included a nearly doubling of the Northern Border Regional Commission – a regional economic development agency for the northern counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York that has provided $46,000 for brewery tours and $100,000 for Lake Placid Ski Club to build International Ski Federation-qualified ski jumps.
Big Bucks hunting season for Fiscal Year 2018 tax dollars is now closed. Leaders of both parties got what they wanted and keep sticking coming generations with the bill. Don’t expect this practice to end any time soon either, as the February budget blowout agreement provided an additional $153 billion of spending room above the caps for next year. You can bet these leaders are already gearing up for next season – better put another quarter in the machine.