Congress’ Big Spending Bill Covers Bullets, Cow Farts, and Chinese Chickens

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Dec 11 2014

Barring any last-minute glitches — admittedly, no small concern — the House of Representatives will vote sometime Thursday on an omnibus spending bill that takes the place of 11 out of the 12 appropriations bills that Congress, were it working under regular order, would have produced this year. 

The 1,603-page bill, which was only made public late Tuesday, will fund the majority of the government through the end of this fiscal year in September. The exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which will be funded by a temporary continuing resolution (CR) so that Republicans, when they have control of both houses of Congress in January, can try to stymie President Obama’s executive order on immigration. 

Related: Last-Minute Changes Could Derail Spending Bill 

The combination of an omnibus spending bill and a continuing resolution has led to the coining of the word “CRomnibus” to describe the current bill. And if that sounds like some sort of mutant monster, well, it’s probably fitting. 

The bill, or some version of it, has to pass to avoid a government shutdown. So, naturally, members of Congress have festooned it with pet demands and policy prescriptions that, under other circumstances, might never get a floor vote. 

Some of the provisions, including a move to gut the limits on campaign donations that wealthy individuals can give to political parties and another to loosen restrictions barring federally insured banks from making risky derivatives trades, got significant public attention on Wednesday. 

Here are some others that may have escaped notice: 

Bullets
When House Republican leadership held a press conference Wednesday morning, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) could have chosen any number of elements of the omnibus to highlight. He opted for a provision preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from passing any rule “to regulate the lead content of ammunition, ammunition components, or fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act.” He said the threat of such a rule had made it so hard to buy ammo that people can’t even find it at Walmart.

Related: Domestic Spending Again Takes Back Seat to Defense

White Potatoes
One section of the bill bars the federal Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program from using funds “to exclude or restrict the eligibility of any variety of fresh, whole, or cut vegetables” from the program. The provision is a huge win for the potato lobby — yes, there is a potato lobby — which objected to a proposal earlier in the year to restrict the eligibility of high-starch foods, like white potatoes, from the program.

Risk Corridors
The bill doesn’t directly try to defund Obamacare, as many Republicans might have preferred, but it does assault a key part of the bill. Because the law is new, and its outcomes uncertain, insurance companies offering policies under the Affordable Care Act agreed that they would pay back some of their profits if they were unexpectedly high so that competitors whose profits were unexpectedly low could be compensated. The concept, known as “risk corridors” was eligible for some funding from the federal government, which the omnibus proposal would make illegal.

Marijuana
The bill takes a Janus-like stand when it comes to marijuana. It explicitly prevents the District of Columbia from acting on a referendum passed by voters in November that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. However, another section of the bill blocks the Department of Justice from interfering with state programs legalizing medical marijuana. Among the “states” included? The District of Columbia. 

Light Bulbs
The bill extends a ban on any effort by the federal government to restrict or otherwise interfere with the sale and production of incandescent light bulbs. At issue is a 2007 law signed by President George W. Bush that attempted to phase out inefficient incandescent bulbs in favor of more environmentally friendly, if widely hated, replacements such as the compact fluorescent bulb. 

Related: Carter’s First Combat Mission – The Out-of-Control Pentagon Budget 

Sage Grouse
The Environmental Protection Agency would be barred from giving special protections to two species of sage grouse, an endangered pheasant-like bird native to a number of western states, primarily because doing so would make it difficult for a number of oil and gas extraction projects to move forward. 

Chinese Chickens
The act specifically addresses poultry processed in China, noting that “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to procure processed poultry products imported into the United States from the People’s Republic of China” for use in multiple school lunch programs receiving federal funding. 

Cow Farts
Methane is widely acknowledged to be a potent greenhouse gas, responsible for global warming. Much of the methane produced in the U.S. comes from the flatulence of livestock raised for food. The bill specifically prohibits the EPA from issuing any regulation “requiring the issuance of permits under title V of the Clean Air Act…for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from biological processes associated with live- stock production.”

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