Posted by Curt on 10 December, 2014 at 11:02 pm. 1 comment.


Matthew Boyle:

You can’t make this stuff up.

The 1,603-page omnibus spending bill–or at least part of it–was, according to one of Speaker John Boehner’s top allies, actually negotiated in a literal cigar smoke-filled backroom somewhere in Washington, D.C.

“There’s no secrets in this body,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a close friend of Boehner’s who sits on the Appropriations Committee and Rules Committee, said in the first part of the hearing, adding:

John Kline [a Minnesota Republican who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee] is my best friend in the United States Congress, and George Miller [a California Democrat who’s the ranking member of that committee] is certainly one of my best friends on the other side of the aisle. I’ve had the opportunity to talk about this particular pension problem over a cigar at the end of the day on more than one occasion. I’ve heard about his great frustrations and the cost and the only other person who seemed to realize the problem was named George Miller, which was pretty shocking in and of itself.

The revelation–which came during the open hearing where House Rules Committee chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) cleared Boehner’s omnibus spending bill for a Thursday House floor vote–is a brazen caricature of just how bad bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. are. The garish tableau aside, the bill funds many policies harmful to America’s working class, moving along President Obama’s amnesty and many big government programs.

Miller and Kline, who were sitting in the Rules Committee testifying about pension provisions they managed to slip into Boehner’s omnibus spending bill, beamed with smiles as Cole told the world of their backroom cigar smoking.

The bill funds Obama’s amnesty, funds Obamacare, provides funds for controversial pro-abortion measures, and is packed to the hilt with pork–like money to save rhinoceroses from poaching; a reauthorization of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s casino crony kickback, the Travel Promotion Act; and more.

“While we wish that Congress had the courage to stop the President’s unilateral, unconstitutional amnesty, this bill would not only give him free rein to double-down on his lawless behavior but has greater implications on a range of important issues,” Glyn Wright of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum said in an email. “From the EPA to foreign policy, this bill would be a detriment to conservative ideas. You simply cannot call yourself conservative and vote for this monstrosity.”

Liberals are upset about the bill, too. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is calling on House Democrats to kill the bill over banking restriction rollbacks it contains, and Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., issued a scathing statement ordering all members of Congress to oppose the bill.

Cole wrapped his questioning in the Rules Committee in which he brought up the cigar smoking—a line of questioning that was more like a speech—by berating conservatives for seeking to use the power of the purse to block Obama’s executive amnesty, and noting that there’s something in this omnibus bill that everybody will like and something everyone will hate. He also touted his role in crafting part of it with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), whom Cole called “my partner.” Schultz is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that Cole chairs.

When Miller took the microphone away from Cole, he joked about the cigar smoking, too. “A lot of people over the past couple years have asked about Mr. Kline’s and my relationship, and since you alluded to it, I guess we can let the secret out of the box that a number of years ago, when I was new to the minority and Mr. Kline was new to the majority, we didn’t know one another. You invited us to come and have a cigar with you one evening.”

“A common invitation,” Cole jumped in, laughing. Miller went on:

But the fact of the matter is it allowed us to have a whole range of discussions over these several years, without animosity, agree or disagree, that’s all possible and that has worked. People have speculated about my relationship with Speaker Boehner when he was chair of the Education Committee. It was Johnny Isakson [a U.S. Senator from Georgia now] who asked us to come together to a dinner with him and we were able to have a conversation forever on rarely agreeing but certainly not being disagreeable as Speaker [Tip] O’Neill used to say. So I thank you for the cigar. I gave them up 15 years before that meeting and I tried not to smoke them since then, but thank you.

Everybody, especially Cole, burst out in laughter. It would certainly be funny if it weren’t Americans’ taxpayer dollars—$1.1 trillion of them—these officials were playing with.

Later in the second part of the hearing, after votes were done, Sessions—the Rules Committee chairman himself—admitted that members will be voting on the bill on Thursday on the House floor without actually knowing what’s in it.

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