I like a good Obot v. Firebagger deathmatch as much as the next person, but in the next version of this recurring theme, can we please take a moment to recognize that we’re being played by those assholes in Congress? ABL is right when she points out that the indefinite detention bill is not simply a bill about detainees–it’s basically the Department of Defense spending authorization bill. I make that point not to stir up another argument, but to ask a question: What does our detainee policy have to do with the DoD budget?
The answer, of course, is very damn little. But the reason the detainee policy is embedded into one gigantic turd that Congress takes months to poop out is because it makes using the Presidential veto a very difficult proposition. The same is true of the Omnibus Spending Bill that just passed Congress. As Steve B. points out, at least Democrats were able to kill some of the worst Teabagger amendments in that shitpile, but the Omnibus still wraps up spending for almost every agency of government into one take-it-or-leave-it proposition.
This is nothing new. When I worked as an intern in a Congressional office in the 80’s, I still remember fielding a call from a pissed-off constituent who had was extremely upset about my Congressman’s supposed efforts to kill Social Security. It turns out that the bill she referenced was an obscure amendment in a thousand-page omnibus that some influence group was trying to spin as a Social Security killer. The difference between then and now is that the practice of using giant bills is so embedded in our political culture that voters have come to understand and accept that most votes on multi-thousand page budget bills mean nothing.
It’s all a part of the way that Congress has been working to evade responsibility for its actions. If it’s one giant bill that is make-or-break for the year, most are going to vote for the bill. And, yes, Obama could have vetoed it, but he then risks that a pissed off Congress will try to embed fresh idiocies into the big turd.
Again, I’m not trying to stir up the argument on that point. Maybe he should have taken a stand on this one and killed it. What I’m trying to point out is that the practice of embedding everything into a single bill is about as pernicious as the use the threat of filibuster to routinely block appointments, but it’s taken for granted while we rage on about what the President did or didn’t do. The cure is simple: only accept germane amendments on funding bills and break budgets into department-sized chunks. Maybe someday someone will start asking Congress why they can’t do that.