The House of Representatives approved a $1.3 trillion spending bill Thursday that has fiscal conservatives fuming about the price tag and a process that left everyone but the leaders out in the cold.
The House passed the bill 256-167, with 145 Republicans voting for the increased spending and 90 lining up against it. Among Democrats, 111 voted for it and 77 opposed it.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., a member of the House Freedom Caucus who was elected in the tea party wave of 2010 is among the GOP critics.
“This is probably the worst bill I have ever voted on in my eight years here,” said Gosar, who says it was not humanly possible to read the bill in the limited time between leadership releasing the text and calling for a vote.
“We has less than 12 hours to review this bill of over 2,000 pages. That is not possible. The American people, whom we represent, should be able to see this as well before we vote on it. It’s a sad deal that we didn’t have the time to find out what was actually in the bill,” said Gosar.
He says that approach ought to sound familiar.
“We chastised Nancy Pelosi for having to pass the bill to find out what was in it,” said Gosar, referring to then-Speaker Pelosi’s statement urging passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
“Guess what we just did. We did the same thing. A culture that doesn’t understand it’s history is doomed to repeat history and I guess we just did,” said Gosar.
Despite the short time given to review the omnibus spending bill hammered out by House and Senate leaders, Gosar says he saw more than enough to vote against it.
“I sped-read through about 400 of the pages and what we saw was not good, and that’s why we were a principled ‘no’ against the vote,” said Gosar, who then elaborated on the provisions that bothered him most.
“First of all, the price tag of $1.3 trillion. That’s just unfathomable. I was elected in 2010 to get our budget in order and start to make sense of this budgetary process. This was bad process, bad policy, and bad politics,” said Gosar.
“Within this bill we actually did the takings of over a billion dollars of private property. We actually armed the endowment of the arts and we disarmed the second amendment,” said Gosar.
How did the second amendment lose in this bill? Gosar says Speaker Paul Ryan made a specific promise to Republicans about efforts to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that wasn’t kept.
“We had a promise by the speaker that if the Fix NICS bill was actually brought forward, it would have conceal and carry (reciprocity). Of course, conceal and carry was dropped form the bill. Very problematic for the speaker in terms of a promise offered and a promise not kept,” said Gosar.
“The leadership on the Republican side and the Democratic side are the same,” added Gosar.
He says Ryan’s actions as Speaker of the House simply don’t match his rhetoric of fiscal responsibility.
“Take a look at this product. Words are cheap, actions speak. You look at somebody talking like a conservative, but when they act like a liberal, you know what? Is it really what they talk about or is it the actions they display? I think it’s the latter,” said Gosar.
Gosar credits Ryan for shepherding appropriations bills through the House in regular order but blasts Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for never taking them up because he doesn’t have the votes to break a Democratic filibuster. Gosar says McConnell is hiding behind rules rather than any concrete constitutional obstacle.
But this cannot all be on the leadership. What about those 145 House Republicans who voted for the bill? Gosar says many of them did it because they were left with a terrible choice over military spending.
“We have so crippled our military that anything was better than nothing. That’s a sad place to be put in when we’re spending the American taxpayers’ dollars,” said Gosar.
Gosar says the Republicans had a golden opportunity in January when the Democrats were against the political ropes and being blamed for a brief government shutdown. He says GOP leaders should have insisted on higher military spending while refusing to raise non-defense discretionary spending.
“It was leadership that failed to look at this. The way we negotiate in this institution is absolutely abominable,” said Gosar.
“The way we’re doing things doesn’t work and it needs to be reformed. It needs to be reformed right away. If that requires different leadership, so be it,” said Gosar.