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Editorial: Good signs in Congress

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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Despite a seemingly unproductive year filled with hyper-partisanship, our representatives were able to deliver a spending bill this year without shutting down the government. A 56-40 Senate vote on the more than 1,600-page bill symbolizes a break in budgetary bickering, at least until September 2015, when the bill will expire.

This time around, both the Democrats and Republicans got a little of what they wanted, which signals that perhaps more bipartisanship may be on the way.

While this highly awaited spending bill passed, the result did not come to fruition without the normal political drama. All week, senators debated the easing of Wall Street banking regulations that are transcribed in the bill. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., were on the frontlines in an attempt to kill the controversial addition.

The provision is a reversion of a sector of the Dodd-Frank act, passed in 2010 after the financial collapse. The new spending bill eliminates the rule that bans banks from making certain risky derivative trades with government guarantees. The change was introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., in June, who said “this is about the farmer in your district who wants to get a loan.” Democrats saw the bill as a bow to the big banks. On the Senate floor, Warren repeatedly asked, “Whom does Congress work for?”

Most importantly, the spending bill tackles the issue of Obama’s executive action on illegal immigration. Considered to be the greatest threat of causing another shutdown, the bill pushes the decision back until the results of the midterm elections are reflected. It does this by continuing funding for the Department of Homeland Security only until Feb. 27, at which point both chambers of the Republican controlled Congress will presumably attempt to cut funding for the implementation of Obama’s executive action.

Perhaps in all the chaos the most significant Democratic win came by accident. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, delayed the spending bill in an effort to deny Obama’s immigration actions right away. Not only did the action backfire, with the vote on his measure failing 74-22, he also managed to give Democrats the opportunity to seek approval for presidential appointees. Some of these appointees had been stalled for quite some time. Cruz’s action shows that these symbolic actions need to be better prepared to be effective. Otherwise, he risks hurting his own party.

This drama on Capitol Hill took over the headlines and prevented news stations from covering other actions in the bill. Hidden in the spending bill is another shocker: it bans the District of Columbia from legalizing marijuana despite a voter-upheld initiative. The action is a step backward from what seemed like an accelerating pace of marijuana legalization across America.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that overall, the spending bill represents a rare surge of bipartisanship in Congress as both Republicans and Democrats were able to push through some of their initiatives. However, on a broader level, lawmakers should stop attempting to jam unrelated legislation into giant spending bills. This creates a scenario in which it is almost impossible for the public to properly debate the issues and know what is going on. Instead, everyone feels rushed to get the bill passed as fast as possible in order to prevent another shutdown.


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