The $1.1 trillion spending bill which narrowly passed the House of Representative last night is expected to receive a vote—and likely pass—in the U.S. Senate sometime Friday or Saturday despite widespread condemnation of the package that will fund the government through most of next year.
"Congress should not put taxpayers on the hook for another bailout, and this giveaway that was drafted by Citigroup lobbyists has no place in a critical government funding bill." —Sen. Elizabeth WarrenWhile the number of giveaways to the wealthy, the fossil fuel industry, Wall Street bankers, military contractors, and other elite interests have compelled progressive leaders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to make clear they will vote against the bill—which some critics have dubbed the "Citigroup Budget"—most reporting from capitol hill on Friday suggests the package will likely receive enough votes from Democrats and Republicans to push it through before a self-imposed deadline expires on Saturday.
"The last-minute, just-before-shutdown tactic used here is obvious," said Dave Johnson at the Campaign for America's Future in a Friday blog post on the group's website which urged people to call their senators and tell them to vote against the deal.
What was done by design, Johnson explained, was that the budget was loaded up "with favors for Wall Street, the biggest corporations and the billionaires" and then rammed through at the last minute so lawmakers appeared to have only two choices: pass the regressive budget or shut down the whole government ahead of the end-of-year holiday season.
"This makes the vote about shutting down the government instead of about all the favors that rig the rules for the few," he said. "By waiting until the very last minute they pressure 'pragmatic' Democrats to save us from a shutdown, instead of looking at what Citibank and others were able to buy for themselves. It makes it about the deadline, about “avoiding a shutdown” and not about the substance and the rigging of the system."
As the Washington Post reported mid-afternoon on Friday:
The spending agreement could be passed and sent to President Obama as early as late Friday, but that would require consent from all 100 senators, including liberals and conservatives who oppose parts of the omnibus agreement."
Among liberals, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sparked a Democratic revolt this week by speaking out against the legislation. But she hadn’t indicated by Friday afternoon whether she might seek to block the bill or force at least a few hours of debate that could spill it into Saturday.
Later in the day, however, Sen. Warren announced her introduction of an amendment to the spending bill, along with Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, which would strip from the overall package one of its most caustic and controversial measures—a provision written by CitiBank lobbyists which would undo regulations of high-risk derivative trading that were imposed after the financial crash of 2008.
"People are fed up and they are watching for any sign of betrayal. No more backroom deals that help Wall Street, the giant corporations, the 1 percent, the polluters, the fraudsters, the vote-riggers, the haters, the tax-dodgers, the outsourcers, the union busters, the wage-thievers, the pension-cutters and the rest of those who are rigging the system against the rest of us." — Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future"Ever since the new financial regulations went into place, Wall Street has been working behind the scenes to open another loophole so they could gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system," said Sen Warren. "Congress should not put taxpayers on the hook for another bailout, and this giveaway that was drafted by Citigroup lobbyists has no place in a critical government funding bill."
As of this writing, it remained unclear whether or not the Warren/Vitter amendment would receive a vote.
In a statement released earlier on Friday, Sen. Sanders said his 'No' vote was a definite. Enumerating the various reasons for his opposition, he declared:
At a time when the middle class continues to disappear, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider, this bill comes nowhere close to reflecting the needs and priorities of America’s working families.
Instead of helping to strengthen Social Security, Medicare and other programs that help working families, this bill would allow the Pentagon to spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on our military and seemingly never-ending wars in the Middle East.
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Instead of investing in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and creating millions of decent-paying jobs, this bill would let companies renege on promises they made to their workers by cutting the pension benefits of current retirees.
Instead of cracking down on Wall Street CEOs whose greed and illegal behavior plunged the country into a terrible recession, this bill allows too-big-to-fail banks to make the same risky bets on derivatives that led to the largest taxpayer bailout in history and nearly destroyed the economy.
Instead of cutting back on the ability of billionaires to buy elections, this bill outrageously gives the wealthy even more power over the political process.
Instead of giving the Environmental Protection Agency the tools it needs to begin dealing with the planetary crisis of global warming, this bill would cut spending by the EPA.
Meanwhile, progressive advocacy groups were doing what they could to make sure their members were voicing their disgust with the contents of the budget deal and the way it was pushed forced through Congress on the eve of the holiday recess.
As CAF's Johnson raged in his piece:
People are fed up with the back room deals, the rule-rigging, the favoring of the wealthy few. Politicians take notice: From now on every vote, every action, every show of support will be viewed through the filter of “are they on our side?”
Democrats especially should take notice. From now on ANYthing that ANY Democrat does that helps rig the rules, will be a hot button. Every. Single. Time. Every betrayal will be publicized and remembered.
This isn’t something that “left-wing groups” are engineering; this is a description of what is happening out there. People are fed up and they are watching for any sign of betrayal. No more backroom deals that help Wall Street, the giant corporations, the 1 percent, the polluters, the fraudsters, the vote-riggers, the haters, the tax-dodgers, the outsourcers, the union busters, the wage-thievers, the pension-cutters and the rest of those who are rigging the system against the rest of us.
We the People have had enough.
As previous Common Dreams reporting indicated and the Huffington Post explored in a piece on Friday afternoon, one of the most troubling aspects of the way the budget deal has been manuevered through Congress was the roll the Obama administration played in "arm-twisting" lawmakers to support the deal. Specifically, as the HuffPo reports, is the re-emergence of the infamous "triangulating" tactics—employed by the Clinton administration in the 1990s—which forged alliances between Wall Street interests, the White House, and congressional members in both parties to push through economic policies friendly to corporations and the wealthy while undermining working people, the middle class, and other vulnerable segments of the population.
In a new segment of Moyers & Company airing on Friday night, journalist Bill Moyers explores why many progressive-minded people like John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's magazine, who have traditionally aimed his "arrows of outrage" at both political parties, are increasingly "incensed by Democrats for abandoning their progressive roots to serve Wall Street, K Street, and crony capitalists."
In the context of the budget deal and the current interplay between the White House, Congress, and corporate interests, Moyers' interview with MacArthur is worth watching in full: