Today, Congress is poised to take up the final FY2012 spending package. The bill brings spending in line with the levels agreed to in the August debt limit deal, cutting spending by over $6 billion from last year's levels.
Many conservatives have expressed frustration that the bill still spends above the levels written into the House-passed 2012 budget. Arguably, those spending levels would have instilled unprecedented spending restraint in federal budgeting, but they were never passed into law. The events of the past year, however, should not dishearten taxpayers.
One year ago today, the Senate was on the verge of passing a $1.3 trillion Cromnibus bill. This legislative morass was 2,000 pages long, included 7,000 earmarks and would have increased spending from previous levels by almost $100 billion. This rubber-stamp budgeting had been common practice, and Democrats were confident they could continue business as usual to round out the 111th Congress.
Instead, Senate Republicans defeated the measure, securing a Continuing Resolution that allowed the incoming 112th Congress to wrap up the funding fight. As a result, the final FY 2011 funding was lower than previous levels - an unprecedented victory for taxpayers.
This brings us to today, where Congress is about to consider a bill that is $300 billion less than the omnibus measure that very nearly became law last year - cutting three times the amount by which Democrats wanted to increase spending last year. Moreover, this omnibus eschews the earmark practice of old and contains several significant policy changes, including restrictions on abusive grant spending and positive energy policy. ATR sent a letter this morning supporting these important policy changes.
To be sure, there is much work still to be done. But the small victories of the past year show that patience is a virtue - two years in a row where spending is being cut in appropriations, rather than increased, is progress.