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Archive for December 16th, 2010

Senate Omnibus spending bill was dropped on Tuesday

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 With 3/4 of FY2011 still before us, the question of how much funding the federal agencies will have to address ocean issues is still in doubt.  With the House already passing a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR), the decision on the FY2011 federal budget has been passed to the hands of the Senate.  Senator Inouye, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has indicated his strong support for an Omnibus spending bill rather than a CR, noting that rubber stamping last year’s budget isn’t the best policy.

Senator Daniel Inouye, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman

Senator Daniel Inouye, Appropriations Committee Chairman, dropped his 1924 page spending bill on Tuesday in the Senate. Vote to suspend further debate may occur as early as this weekend.

“While I appreciate the work that the House has done in producing a full year Continuing Resolution, I do not believe that putting the government on autopilot for a full year is in the best interest of the American people,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii).

For too many years Congress has, in my opinion, shirked one of their most important duties – to provide a federal budget the reflects the policy priorities of the nation.  While a jumbo-sized bill that conbines 12 individual spending bills, each themselves a huge chunk of the federal budget, is far from ideal policy, as it is indeed hard to get your head around a 1,924 page piece of legislation, but it beats the alternative of saying….uh, lets just do what we did last year (as if FY2010’s budget was optimized for that year’s needs, much less the policy realities of FY2011).

 “The substitute amendment I introduce today represents the bipartisan work of the Committee.  The twelve bills included in this package fulfill the Congress’ most basic responsibility, to exercise the power of the purse.  As an example, who among us believes we should base our spending recommendations for defense, homeland security and veterans on whatever level was needed last year.” Senator Daniel Inouye.

The larger public policy question of whether it is better to pass a new budget with the input of Congress each year or whether the best we can do is “ditto” to prior year’s efforts aside, Is the Omnibus bill better at providing more funding, or more appropriately targeted funding, for FY2011 than the House’s CR?  Further analysis remains to be done on the Omnibus bill to answer that question, but one thing is clear: if there is a reason to push for, or against, the Senate’s Omnibus process, the environmental community had better act fast if they hope to have any relevancy in that discussion.  With a vote for cloture on the bill believed to be targeting Sunday for a vote, there is but a scant few days to get organized and make a difference.  Inouye will need 60 votes to move his bill to a vote. It’s time for the ocean community to dig through the Omnibus language and determine if and how they will support the Appropriation Chairman’s efforts.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.  
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com