MILLER: Obama wants to steal Christmas

President forces spending showdown after Democrats agreed to a deal

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It was the week before Christmas, and all through the House and Senate, no approps bills were stirring, not even a cut. That’s because President Obama, the political Grinch who stole Christmas, cares more about winning a political game than doing the people’s business.

After House and Senate appropriators on both sides of the aisle agreed over the weekend to an omnibus bill for the remainder of the 2012 fiscal year, Mr. Obama called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday night and told him not to let the Democrats on the committee sign it. As a result, Capitol Hill has been in a stalemate all week, with the threat of a partial government shutdown looming on Friday night.

House Speaker John A. Boehner waited all week for Democrats to do something on the spending bill. On Wednesday, he finally ordered the conference report be introduced as a stand-alone bill. Late that night, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer put out a statement saying the president suddenly has “significant concerns about a number of provisions” which “enact extreme social and ideological riders” in the $1 trillion package. Mr. Pfeiffer said Congress should not pass the bipartisan, bicameral agreement but instead pass a short-term continuing resolution in order to restart negotiations.

On Thursday morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi piled on, saying the bill is “exacerbating the crisis.” The California Democrat added, “I hope they have the votes for it, because if they don’t, they won’t be getting any cooperation from us.”

Mr. Boehner sounded a more conciliatory note. “I think Democrats should join Republicans and sign the conference report to fund our government. … They worked out all the details and shook hands, and the bill’s done. It’s bipartisan. It’s bicameral,” the Ohio Republican told reporters. “We just need the president and Senate leaders to do our work.”

Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, backed down a bit on Thursday morning, saying the House should wait to vote on the conference report since there were only “a few issues still outstanding but they’re really small in number.” As of press time, the Democrat appropriators had not signed an agreement. 

The massive omnibus bill sets spending levels at exactly the amount Mr. Boehner and Mr. Obama agreed to in the Budget Control Act (BCA), which was the August debt-ceiling deal. The $7 billion cut for 2012 amounts to about the cost of keeping the federal government running for a whopping 17 hours. House Republicans could have fought for cuts closer to the $31 billion in their own budget but ceded the topline to Democrats.

The BCA also allowed for a separate spending bill of up to $11 billion to pay for past disasters, such as Hurricane Irene. The conference report spends exactly the amount that the omnibus is below the 2011 levels, but then offers a third bill that offsets it with an across-the-board cut of 1.83 percent (except for defense).

The White House forcing congressional Democrats to break their word and then trying to block a final deal demonstrates a shocking lack of integrity. As one House GOP leadership aide said, “The White House is absolutely guilty of legislative affairs malpractice.”

The motives behind Mr. Obama’s moves are a mystery to everyone on Capitol Hill. Whether he wants to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline from being built or just score political points by blaming a shutdown on Republicans is uncertain. What’s clear is that Democratic posturing is about next year’s election and not what is best for the country.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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