December 22, 2015

End Irrational Special Breaks | The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

Christmas came early for many special interests. Congress Claus loaded his sleigh with billions of dollars in tax breaks and delivered them last week.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., put it this way in a speech on the Senate floor: "I have never seen so many gifts and presents given out in one bill. ... We are giving out $680 billion in irresponsible tax break Christmas gifts to every special interest and corporation that asked for one."

Manchin went on to list some of the beneficiaries: "We gave Christmas presents to millionaire race car drivers and motorcycle riders, television and theater producers and even race horse owners."

The Mountain State senator did not have time to list all the special-interest tax breaks included in the bill. There were hundreds of them in the 2,000 or so pages of the measure.

But for the most part, this was no partisan giveaway rammed through Congress by either Democrats or Republicans. Powerful lawmakers of both parties got to play Santa Claus.

And it was no aberration; this sort of thing happens regularly in Washington and has for many years.

No wonder Americans suffer under the weight of an $18.6 trillion national debt.

Nothing but voters demanding and enforcing accountability will end the madness.

But Manchin pointed out two enabling features of life on Capitol Hill. First, he noted, "we have stopped following regular order."

To most Americans, that may sound like political jargon, but it actually is quite simple. As Manchin explained, it amounts to dealing with spending through 12 separate appropriations bills rather than the single omnibus measure used last week.

Regular order provides more structure, balance, oversight and yes, time for lawmakers to consider spending bills responsibly. It has not been used for years.

In addition, "Instead of working throughout the year in a bipartisan way, we continue to govern by crisis," Manchin reminded his fellow senators. Spending bills tend to be cobbled together in the face of "government shutdown" threats that give no one involved any incentive to examine and debate the action.

Manchin is right - but as he knows well, the dysfunctional process has become nearly a tradition in Washington.

Perhaps Santa will come even earlier next year - in November.

By:  Editorial