Fiscal Cliff Becomes K Street Gravy Train

Dec 30, 2012

This morning, even as Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice President Joe Biden make "major progress" on the fiscal cliff, one thing is clear: this is becoming a K Street Gravy Train.

Because legislative text is unavailable, it is impossible to know just how larded up a potential deal will become, but the Examiner's Tim Carney has this nugget:

An all-star lineup of lobbyists, featuring former congressmen and many of Obama's closest allies, is fighting to save a tax credit for wind energy that expires at midnight Monday.
The lobbying team to renew the tax credit is formidable, packed with Obama's closest corporate confidants as well as former congressmen from both parties.

Subsidizing wind doesn't stimulate the economy, it simply fosters cronyism. Lawmakers should not allow special interest lobbyists to sneak a last minute extension of bad policy into a year-end bill.

An extension of the so-called farm bill (which is about 80% food stamps) may also hitch a ride. The Hill reports a one-year extension is "gaining support" with House Republicans:

Lawmakers discussed the issue at a House Republican conference meeting Sunday night, and members said the leadership was likely to bring up an extension Monday or Tuesday, possibly attached to legislation dealing with the "fiscal cliff."

As Heritage said in August, "sticking with bad policy-even for the short term-is not the solution." And at 78 pages, this appears to be anything but a simple one-year extension. According to the CBO report, budget authority would increase by nearly $1.3 billion in FY2013. Direct payments are cut (good), but instead of being used for deficit reduction, the savings is funneled back into disaster relief programs (double bad).

Unfortunately, in the last minute scramble to seal a deal, lawmakers and their constituents may not know every detail. The Hill reports, "House Republican leadership moved Sunday night to give itself expedited authority to bring legislation to the floor in case the Senate actually passes a compromise bill Monday."

As Philip Klein at the Examiner points out, any deal struck today and approved by the House before January 2 would be a violation of the House's 72-hour rule:

During the first two years of the Obama administration, Republicans were incensed as Democrats rammed through major legislation such as the economic stimulus package and the national health care law without allowing lawmakers and the public adequate opportunity to read and debate the legislation. In the 2010 midterms, Republicans vowed to usher in more transparency if they were to gain power.

At this point, the Senate's wasteful $60.4 billion Sandy bill is unlikely to make the final cut. And despite the apparent inclusion of the wind subsidy, CQ (sub. req'd) report as of "Sunday night, it appeared possible that some or all extenders" may be left out.

To paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, lawmakers may have to pass the bill before we, the people, can find out what's in it. This much is certain, though: if lawmakers pass a K Street Gravy Train on New Year's Eve, they will wake up tomorrow with one heck of a hangover.