The US House of Representatives passed a $1.1 trillion, 1603-page spending bill late last night, 219-209, which will now head to the Senate for a vote. In both chambers of Congress, women are leading the fight against the legislation, which contains controversial provisions on abortion, abstinence-only education, financial reform, and other issues impacting millions of Americans.
In the Senate, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led the fight against passage, asking if Congress was representing Wall Street or representing the people. She said the bill represented “the worst of government for the rich and the powerful.” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also took to the floor to denounce the bill, saying that members were being blackmailed to pass the measure in the closing hours of the session with the threat of a government shutdown. The bill was passed within 3 hours of the deadline.
The bill contains a provision that weakens the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act by easing restrictions on banks, which ultimately contributed to the financial debacle of 2008. It also includes a provision on the Hyde Amendment, which bans spending federal dollars on abortion, and delineates spending $5 million and upwards to $12-15 million more for ineffectual and harmful abstinence-only education. Despite these provisions, the bill also contains $101 million in funding for the Teen Pregnancy Initiative, which covers comprehensive family planning education.
Additionally, the spending bill as it stands could result in cuts to pensions for millions of retired workers. A provision allowing cuts to multi-employer underfunded pensions plans, which are typically sponsored by employers and unions, allows those in control of the plans to cut benefits “well before” they reach insolvency. The teamsters claim that one of the provisions dealing with pensions “could save UPS $2 billion,” whereas those receiving pensions could lose as much as a half to two-thirds of their worth. This particular provision, despite support from both sides of the aisle as well as some unions and employers, is opposed by AARP, the Pension Rights Center, and other advocacy groups because it “sets a precedent for cutting social security and senior employer plans.”
The legislation also contains a provision – one that has nothing to do with government spending – allowing wealthy individuals to increase their contributions to national political party committees. This provision increases the current campaign donation cap of $97,200 to as much as $777,600, giving even more political power to the rich. Although exact calculations differ, the increase could make a substantial impact on the political landscape, especially in conjunction with a recent Supreme Court decision that allows individuals to give unlimited secret funds to non-profit independent expenditure campaigns. Ultimately, this new donation cap provides more power to politicians and political parties supported by organizations like the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.
Media Resources: Fox Politics 12/12/14; FundAbortionNow.org; SEICUS.org 12/12/14; LA Times The Economy Hub 12/12/14; Star Tribune Business 12/11/14; Politico 12/11/14