Washington Markup

It's Not About the Money – Spending vs. Ideology in Congress

By Michael Macleod-Ball, Chief of Staff, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 7:31pm

The first spending bill for the new fiscal year that starts in October was adopted by the House of Representatives today after a week of wrangling. H.R. 5326 will provide funding for the Departments of Justice and Commerce as well as several science agencies – the so-called Commerce Justice Science (CJS) bill. If you listened to some in the majority, you would have thought the floor debate – which under an open rule allowed for unlimited amendments – provided a ripe opportunity for adding measures to cut spending, presumably the mantra in this time of fiscal austerity and Tea Party dominance. But some conservative writers, like those at Red State, note that cutting spending falls way down on the list of political priorities.

While dozens and dozens of amendments were offered to the CJS appropriations bill,the Red State article notes that many opportunities to cut spending failed. But not so with the red meat amendments. Trust us, it’s not about the money. What’s really going on is a concerted effort to impose an anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-progressive agenda on America. 

ACLU issued vote recommendations on six amendments over the course of the three-day floor debate.

To support the Holt amendment to bar funding for racial profiling by law enforcement.
To oppose the Huelskamp amendment that would limit DOJ’s ability to oppose the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in court proceedings.
To support the Rohrabacher amendment that would bar the use of funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
To oppose the Walsh amendment that would take funds away from so-called sanctuary cities.
To oppose the Landry amendment that would restrict the use of funds to provide for hardship relief in certain immigration deportation cases.
To oppose the Black amendment that would bar Justice Department funding to originate or join challenges to state anti-immigration laws.

The House refused to oppose racial profiling and rejected the Holt amendment. Not following President Obama’s lead, the chamber missed an opportunity to capture the mood of the country and instead adopted the anti-gay Huelskamp amendment. House members refused to support the rights of the states to set their own course on marijuana and rejected the bipartisan Rohrabacher amendment. And the House toed the anti-immigrant line – adopting the mean-spirited Walsh and Black amendments. Only the Landry amendment was not adopted – and that was only because it was withdrawn.

Most people may not pay a lot of attention to these spending bills as they go through the House and Senate. But on the CJS bill, one thing is sure - the House of Representatives advanced a narrow ideological agenda. It’s anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-minority and anti-progressive. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain telling you he’s the great and powerful Oz – cutting spending with a vengeance. No, no – it’s the ideology, not the money.

It will now be up to the U. S. Senate to provide a different vision for our country.

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