The Dog Days of Summer

The weather in Washington, D.C. has been rather pleasant, all things considered, but that doesn’t mean the nation’s capital has avoided the dog days of summer.

In Congress, the dog days of summer mean it is the appropriations season. With 13 appropriations bills to complete before the end of the fiscal year at the end of the September, the Congress usually slogs away at spending bills designed to keep the government open.

These are especially dog days for the taxpayer, because the Democratic Congress is trying to go on a spending binge. Here is how Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman put it in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “The Democratic budget resolution exceeds the President’s discretionary spending topline by $22 billion, which is a nine percent increase. Over five years, the Democratic alternative spends over $200 billion more than the President’s Budget, including nearly $400 billion in tax increases. This excessive spending level and these tax increases pose a threat to our economic growth and that is why the President will veto bills until Congress demonstrates a path that does not exceed the responsible discretionary spending level set in his FY 2008 Budget.”

The money is going for things like a $100,000 taxpayer-funded junket to Portugal for members of the AFL-CIO for a job-safety seminar, which was included in the Labor-Health and Human Services approps bill. Roll Call has reported that other money has been earmarked for shell corporations located in prominent Democrats’ districts, run by campaign contributors. Rumors abound about other unseemly pork that is soon to be exposed.

As the Democrats go on the spending spree on the discretionary side of the ledger, they are also eager to expand the entitlement side. They have seized upon the politically popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and want to expand the size and scope of the program. They pay for this by dramatically increasing taxes on tobacco products. But that is a creaky base to build a huge new entitlement on. Revenues from such a tax are sure to decline in the out years, as smokers either quit, die or find a way to get contraband cigarettes.

All of this will come to a head in late October or November. It looks like the Democratic Congress will finish maybe two or three of its spending bills by the deadline, if that many. The rest will be rolled up into a big omnibus package, passed in the middle of the night, with who knows how many giveaways to Big Labor, shell corporations and various other pork projects. It may also include the expanded SCHIP entitlement package and language on Iraq. Let’s call this the Combined Reconciliation and Appropriations Package.

Let’s hope that the president vetoes the C.R.A.P. bill and that Republicans will regain the upper hand on fiscal responsibility going into the election year.