The FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, which fills in the spending levels set out by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, falls short of many conservative ideals. There are some aspects of the bill, however, that point to the strength of the small government movement and the battles it has won over the past few years.
- Overall spending is down. Spending, in real terms, is lower than spending in Fiscal Year 2009, the first year of the Obama Administration. With discretionary levels set at $1.012 trillion, FY 2014 will be the fourth year in a row spending has fallen from the previous year.
- Four years of consistent spending reductions. Since Republicans took control of the House in 2010, spending has decreased by $165 billion. This means the gains made by a commitment to cutting spending in continuing resolutions, the spending caps established in the Budget Control Act and the sequester savings locked in over ten years have erased what was supposed to be the lasting legacy of President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Harry Reid.
- Obamacare advocates are now on defense. After a disastrous rollout of his health care law, the President and his allies are calling a bill that provides no additional spending for agencies to implement Obamacare a “positive step forward.” Democrats are on their heels trying to defend the Affordable Care Act; even they won’t pretend that more funding can fix the flawed law.
- Keep the IRS in line. The bill would decrease funding for the embattled Internal Revenue Service. It restricts the agency’s spending by prohibiting funds from being used to target groups for scrutiny based on their ideology or for producing videos. It also requires increased reporting on training and compensation.
- Rein in the EPA. The bill continues to shrink the size of the EPA by reducing funding and blocking the Administration’s attempts to increase the costs of domestic energy production. The bill will reduce the number of EPA regulators to a 25-year low, and delay some provisions in the Administration’s war on coal until the next fiscal year.
- Put legislating back in the hands of legislators. While using a large omnibus bill to fill out the budget outline can hardly be considered regular order, it does remove the executive branch’s discretion in implementing the sequester. It places appropriating back in the proper branch of government, where funding should be debated and amended on its merits.
The omnibus leaves many things to be desired. But it does demonstrate slow progress in a time where many, at one point, believed the fight for smaller government was all but lost.