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Spin Control

An unusual split in NW delegation

When congressional votes are close, they usually break down on partisan lines with Republicans in Washington and Idaho voting one way and Democrats the other.

Not the case with yesterday's House vote on the omnibus spending bill, technically known as the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted yes, along with other Republicans from Washington, but Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, voted no.

That put Labrador, one of the House's more prominent tea party conservatives, on the same side as Washington Democrats, including Seattle's Rep. Jim McDermott, who regularly ranks up there with the House's most liberal. But not all liberal Ds voted no; for example Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also the head of the Democratic National Committee, voted yes.

As might be expected, McMorris Rodgers, Labrador and McDermott all had different things to say about the "Cromnibus" as it is being called.To see their different takes, continue inside the blog.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, on why she voted yes:

“Today I voted to  fund a government that addresses Eastern Washington’s top priorities – national security, veterans’ health, investment in local transportation projects, and lower energy costs – while cutting spending for wasteful programs at the IRS and the EPA. It also ensures that our servicemen and women at Fairchild Air Force Base have access to the training and equipment – like KC-46A Refueling Tankers – that they need to successfully complete their missions, and it secures a pay increase for the members of our military. For Eastern Washington veterans, we have renewed our promise to improve our failed VA health system. We will modernize medical records and end the backlog plaguing VA hospitals in our region. And families from Colville to Walla Walla can look forward to lower energy costs because of our all-of-the-above energy strategy, which utilizes fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy. Equally important, this legislation cuts unnecessary programs and excessive spending. The IRS will see a budget cut of $345.6 million from last year, and funding for the EPA will be reduced by 21 percent – the lowest level since 1989. 

"This bill is a reflection of America’s New Congress – a Congress that listens to the American people. A Congress that treats our budget like Eastern Washington families treat their budgets – responsibly and realistically. As we look to the new year, this funding bill will not only guide the People's House, but hold us accountable to those who we work for: the American people.”

This legislation prioritizes funding for Eastern Washington infrastructure projects and programs, including $500 million for the TIGER program, which funds competitive grants for state and local road, transit, port, and railroad construction projects. It includes changes to the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that could save the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport millions of dollars in infrastructure costs by allowing the airport to receive more federal funding at an averages rate between that of Idaho and Washington state.

It also fully funds Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) at $442 million, including the funds authorized in the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act and addresses Eastern Washington’s most important public lands issues – including fighting and preventing wildfires and maintaining our vast natural resources. It provides $3.5 billion for wildfire fighting and prevention programs within the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. This will address wildland fire suppression operations for the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service at the full 10-year average level.

Raul Labrador, on why he voted no:

“Once again, Congress has failed to take seriously its responsibility to squarely address the federal spending crisis. The last two days have been particularly outrageous with the process driven by a handful of people behind closed doors. The result is a 1,603-page bill larded with pork and favors for special interests. The funding bill also fails to address the president’s unconstitutional immigration order.

“I promised Idahoans I would do everything in my power to stem the growth of our now-$18 trillion debt, which Congress refuses to do.  Next year, with both the House and Senate in Republican hands, my sincere hope is we quit stalling and enact meaningful spending reforms.”

Jim McDermott, on why he voted no:

“Republicans in Congress got burned for shutting the government down last year.  They are clearly not going to let that happen again.  However, their price for keeping the government running is a 2015 Omnibus Bill that contains a pair of unacceptable provisions. 

The first is a legislative rider, bought and paid for by bank lobbyists, that loosens regulation on risky derivatives trading.   It is inconceivable that Congress would cut crucial regulations in the Dodd-Frank Act, when risky derivatives trading was at the center of the 2008 financial crisis.  Why is Congress giving Wall Street a massive Christmas present, when so many hardworking Americans are struggling to make ends meet?  

Secondly, I have grave reservations about the billions of dollars appropriated to the Pentagon to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  Exactly what this money will be spent on has not been openly and thoroughly debated on the House Floor.  Congress essentially has no idea how these expenditures fit into a comprehensive strategy in Iraq, or how much more money might be needed to combat ISIS in the coming months or years.   I will be voting NO on this bill.   Sadly, the 2015 Omnibus Bill shows that Congress has not learned crucial lessons when it comes to calamitous derivatives trading or costly proxy wars in the Middle East.”

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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