Bigger Banks and Richer Donors: Here’s What the Spending Bill Will Do

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Both Houses of Congress have passed a spending bill, and President Barack Obama gave his signature Tuesday night, funding the government through next Summer. As is almost always the case, the spending bill has some riding provisions, a number of which are less than popular across the minority party’s side, and a few that have even taken criticism from Republicans. Of course, given the government shutdown mess of 2013, many in Congress were understandably eager to avoid another close call, and the definition of compromise means that basically no one is completely happy. Supporters of the bill point out that it will not only fund the U.S. government through September, but it will aid Ebola efforts, help support U.S. military against ISIL, and accomplish other funding goals that include major political buzz words.”We have money in there for national security. But we also have money in there for veterans … and we also increase the Department of Defense money for medical research for prosthetic devices, for stunning achievements,” said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

However the question is not whether some Democrats, or most Republicans are happy with the omnibus spending bill, but whether or not President Obama will be happy enough to sign it — so far looking likely. If he chooses not to, he’ll be putting the pressure on Democrats this year, who may have been more agreeable to pass this particular bill given the shutdown blame that would fall on their shoulders had they not done so. Let’s look at three of the more controversial and unpopular aspects of the bill and what’s being said about them. 1. Regulation policy and Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ok.), presidential potential for 2016, was openly critical in an interview with NPR. Her target was one section of the bill that would alter bank regulation policy. Specifically, it cuts out a rule instated by the Dodd-Frank law that forces banks to perform their trading through another party. This means that federally insured deposits would be the responsibility of the American government if bank’s made bad bets with their available customer capital. The language Warren used suggested that the banks — or those who pushed this provision of the spending bill — “want the U.S. taxpayer to bail ‘em out.”

In her mind, it’s a return to pre-recession risk and “too big to fail” thinking. “Whichever way you think is the right answer here, I know for sure that this shouldn’t be slipped into an omnibus spending bill — a bill that must pass in order to keep the government open.”

2. EPA, Cows, and Jamie Rappaport

Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was cut by $60 million in this latest spending bill, something Jamie Rappaport Clark, chief executive officer of Defenders of Wildlife, claims will endanger the sage-grouse by blocking protections for the species. “This is yet another example of the recent political attacks on our nation’s wildlife,” said Rappaport, “with Congress once again meddling in what should be science-driven decision making and ultimately placing an imperiled species at grave risk.”

The bill also has a provision in it that takes some of the pressure off of the perpetually struggling farming industry, but limits the EPA. “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to implement any provision in a rule, if that provision requires mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems,” reads section 420 of the bill. Given the fact that this is actually a rather large source of emissions, it’s an important and notable addition. 

3. Campaign Limits and Obama

There are also additions to the spending bill that would loosen regulation of campaign funding. In particular it allows for greater special interest contributions, and needless to say it concerns those who are in favor of cutting back on the money poured into elections.

That is also a provision that the administration does not support,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest on Thursday of the campaign finance proposal. “The President has spoken at length in a variety of settings about concerns that he has about our campaign finance system in this country. He believes that it’s in need of significant reform, particularly in light of the landmark Supreme Court decision from three or four years ago,” said Ernest, “and reforms to that broken system shouldn’t just be tucked into a 1,600-page must-pass bill.” While President Obama is certainly not the only one to point to the electoral mess that is campaign financing, he is one of the few who has no future election riding on his own funding. That said, this problem doesn’t mean he won’t pass the spending bill, especially given Ernest’s “must-pass” language.

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