Issue: H.R. 5895, Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 5895; A bill making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes. Question: On the Conference Report.
Result: Agreed to in Senate, 92 to 5, 3 not voting. Passed in House the next day (House Roll Call 399, September 13, 2018). Became Public Law 115-244 (signed by the President, 9-21-2018). Both GOP and Democrats scored.
Freedom First Society: Despite its initial posted title, H.R. 5895 first passed the House as a three-bill “minibus,” contrary to regular order. The unconstitutional spending in that version was bad enough (see our analysis of House Roll Call 257, June 8, 2018), but this House-Senate Conference Committee legislation is even worse. The Committee compromised to the Left to gain the support of almost all of the big-government Democrats.
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We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
Bill Summary: As reported by the Congressional Research Service on the June 8 House-passed bill:
This bill provides FY2019 appropriations for several federal agencies. The bill includes 3 of the 12 regular FY2019 appropriations bills: the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019; the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2019; and the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019.
The bill also provides additional Overseas Contingency Operations/ Global War on Terrorism funding which is exempt from discretionary spending limits.”
Analysis: Our analysis here of the House-Senate compromise measure makes three objections. We support these with excerpts from the Senate floor “debates” (as reported in the September 12th Congressional Record).
1. Collectivism is Alive and Well in Both Parties
Leadership of both parties promote the idea that their job is to spend money in a timely manner and that the American taxpayer is counting on Congress to do so. The appropriators often make it sound as though they are paying for these appropriations out of their own pockets.
Moreover, they tout all of the ostensible good things government can do on our behalf (collectivism), while completely ignoring the damage to middle class opportunity from a bloated out-of-control government. Yet this unrestrained spending on unconstitutional programs threatens to bankrupt our nation and cost us our freedom.
Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): “Today, the Senate will consider final passage of the “Minibus #1” conference report. This package contains the Legislative Branch, Energy and Water Development, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bills…. The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill includes significant new investments in mental health and opioid abuse treatment. We are not just talking about things we would like to do to address opioid abuse; we are actually including it in a bill. It invests $1 billion in new funding over fiscal year 2017 levels for mental healthcare programs and suicide prevention and $454 million over fiscal year 2017 for opioid treatment and prevention….
“In the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill, we make significant investments that support scientific research, make America more competitive in clean energy and increase funds for renewable energy. Congress rejected President Trump’s shortsighted attempt to eliminate ARPA-E, which researches and invests in new energy technologies, and increased its funding by $60 million over fiscal year 2018. Thanks to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, investments in the Office of Science are increased by $1.2 billion over fiscal year 2017, paving the way for new and groundbreaking scientific research…..
“The Energy and Water bill also makes important investments in our rural communities through regional commissions, including $20 million for the four-State Northern Border Regional Commission. We once again provide strong funding for the Weatherization Program, which helps so many families in Vermont and other northern States who struggle with high home heating prices during the cold winter months. And I am pleased that the bill supports much needed repairs and improvements in our environmental infrastructure and energy infrastructure and strengthens innovative ways to deliver these critical assets that will make Vermont and the entire country more resilient to the changing climate and violent weather events.”
Freedom First Society: Note: Passage of a minibus is not regular order (individual votes on each of the 12 regular appropriations measures). The primary reason that the leadership combines these 3 appropriation measures into a minibus, rather than allowing votes on each individual measure, is to provide protective coloration so that congressmen can support the bad with the good.
2. Bipartisan Compromise Should Not Be Extolled As a Virtue
Legislative leaders and the Establishment media constantly seek to convince the public that political compromise is a necessary virtue. But congressmen should not compromise on fundamental principles, such as their oath to defend the Constitution. And some don’t.
The principled position is for congressmen and senators to vote on principle, even if they are not currently in the majority. Unless some stake out the principled position, as a few are doing (see Scorecard), there is no hope of becoming the majority and averting disaster.
Note: Those who extoll compromise are often employing a double standard. There was no compromise on so-called “Poison pills” — attempts to address significant policy problems by attaching them to appropriation measures. But they deemed it okay to compromise on the Constitution!
Senator Richard Shelby, (R-Alabama), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee: “A few months ago, I came to the floor and urged my colleagues to set aside partisan disputes so that we could focus on our most basic constitutional responsibility: funding the government in a deliberate and timely manner.
“Most observers deemed the prospect dubious at best. Who could blame them? Like so much in Washington, the appropriations process was broken, but at the urging of Leaders McConnell and Schemer and with the help of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle — Vice Chairman Leahy, in particular — we began to put the pieces back together. Steadily, methodically, we passed 9 of the 12 annual appropriations bills in the Senate by overwhelming bipartisan margins. Today, I am pleased to present my colleagues with the first dividends of their cooperation….
“It does a lot of other things, but I can say that this is an important package, and it is very important in what this package does not contain. It contains no poison pills— none of the partisan riders that have taken down appropriations bills in recent years in this package. As a result, the conference report looks a lot like the package that passed the Senate a few months ago by a vote of 86 to 5.” [Emphasis added.]
Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): “This is a compromise bill. It makes significant investments in the American people. It was not an easy path to get to where we are, but the Shelby-Leahy-McConnell-Schumer agreement we entered into — the four of us — has laid the bipartisan framework for a path forward. This package does have bipartisan support. It is free of poison pill riders, and it is in line with the bipartisan budget agreement….
“In the Senate, we have come together, Republicans and Democrats. We have made more progress than we have in decades in appropriations. I hope that we will continue down this path and pass the two additional minibus appropriations bills that are in conference before the end of the fiscal year. Funding the government is one of Congress’s most basic responsibilities, and we owe it to the American people to do our jobs.”
3. They Compromised to the Left
As noted in Senator Leahy’s comments above (#1), the compromise legislation included major funding for government programs promoting “alternative energy sources.” These “energy” programs are driven by the heavily financed environmental lobby with its media support. They serve as a pretext for holding back our economic prosperity by blocking industry access to cheap, reliable energy capable of powering a major economy. (Solar panels won’t do it.)
Some legislators have opposed the limits in the Internationalists’ Paris climate accord purely on economic grounds. Even President Trump indicated a willingness to rejoin the climate accord if the U.S. could obtain better terms (AP, 6-1-17). Others have challenged the flawed “models” and “findings” of the heavily financed environmental lobby as unsettled “science.”
However, no legislator seems willing or able to tell the American public what is really driving the unconstitutional “Department of Energy” to insist on a shift to “alternative energy”: an Internationalist power grab. The power grab is supported by the UN fiction of a “scientific consensus” re man-made global warming due to the release of greenhouse gases. And of course, the media refuses to report the mountains of scientific evidence disputing those claims and instead helps characterize such science as industry-financed or even a criminal threat to life on the planet.
For example, Richard S. Lindzen, Professor Emeritus, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in Climate Change: The Facts (2015):
Global warming is about politics and power rather than science. In science, there is an attempt to clarify, in global warming, language is misused in order to confuse and mislead the public….
Advocates of policies allegedly addressing global warming use models not to predict but rather to justify the claim that catastrophe is possible.
For more detail please see our analysis of the original House-passed version(House Roll Call 257, June 8, 2018).