If the popular definition of insanity is accurate — repeating the same failed strategies over and over again and expecting a different result — it seems that Democratic leadership may need some medical intervention. The Hill reported over the weekend that Democrats plan to use the lame-duck session after the election to push through a massive omnibus spending plan, which in itself isn’t surprising since the Democrats failed to produce even a budget authorization before the start of the 2011 fiscal year, the first such failure in almost 40 years. However, Republicans warn that Democrats have once again locked them out of budget negotiations, which is more than a little reminiscent of Porkulus:
While Republicans and Democrats fight for control of Congress, a behind-the-scenes budget fight is brewing over an omnibus appropriations bill that lawmakers may need to consider quickly upon their return after the midterm election.
Lobbyists and congressional aides say Democratic appropriators are mulling a 12-bill omnibus to fund the government in 2011 after the current stopgap measure expires in early December.
Republicans complain that they are being shut out of negotiations and are sounding warnings that Democrats will try to jam a $1 trillion bill through Congress immediately following the midterm elections.
“We have not been told a single thing,” a House GOP aide said. “There has not been one phone call from the majority to us.”
Several lobbyists said Republicans haven’t been involved in discussions and are predicting a partisan battle in the lame-duck session over the omnibus.
Republicans have warned that Democrats would use the lame-duck session to push major policy changes, like Card Check and cap-and-trade, but those have as little chance of passing in a lame-duck session as they have all year. Republicans will hold the same filibuster power in the Senate to block such policy changes, and in fact could pick up a couple of seats in Illinois and West Virginia to augment their votes. The main threat in the lame-duck session has always been the budget. Democrats postponed budgeting specifically because they didn’t want to be held accountable for their massive overspending in the midterms, and they can’t put off a budget to January because Republicans will control the agenda. The budget was always going to be the biggest issue in a lame-duck pork-squeezing session.
However, few expected Democrats to repeat the mistake they made with the stimulus package. Nancy Pelosi locked Republicans out of the drafting sessions, even though a number of moderate Republicans supported the concept of government-funded stimulus. The result? The Democrats and Barack Obama ended up with full responsibility for the stimulus — and all of the blame when it failed to keep unemployment from reaching double digits.
Once again, the Democrats have an opportunity to force the GOP into taking some responsibility for the Democrats’ wildly bloated budgets, and once again, they’ve missed the forest for the trees. When the FY2011 budget finally gets produced by the last gasp of a Pelosi-controlled Congress, the Democrats will own every inch of it. They also will set up John Boehner as a spending hawk in the 112th as he and the GOP will do their best to defund big portions of a budget in which they have no stake, once the Republicans win control of the agenda in the House.
In a sense, it seems fitting that Pelosi and her leadership will spend their last days in power in the insular, dictatorial mode that gave them the shortest-lived House majority in fifty-five years.