The bill was 153 pages long. It was written only the day before. It was crammed with giveaways and legislative spare parts. To many new House Republicans, this bill looked like the kind of overstuffed, underscrutinized monster they had promised to stop.
The bill was 153 pages long. It was written only the day before, by Washington insiders working in the dark of night. It was crammed with giveaways and legislative spare parts: tax breaks for wind farms and racetracks. A change to nuclear-weapons policy. Government payments for cheese.
To a tea-party-influenced crop of House Republicans, the bill to resolve the “fiscal cliff” crisis was everything they had wanted to change about the way Washington worked. Too rushed. Too bloated. Too secretive. Too expensive.
There were dozens of rider provisions that had nothing to do with the cliff. The renewable-energy industry got one worth $12 billion over 10 years. The owners of auto-racing tracks got one that will cost $78 million. A $1 million break will help coal-mining operations on Indian lands.
Another oddball provision dealt with excise taxes on imported rum, which the U.S. government mainly funnels to the territorial governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This deal said that arrangement will continue.
One provision renews an Agriculture Department price-support program through which the government buys cheese and butter from dairy farmers. That averted not a fiscal cliff but a dairy cliff: Milk prices were set to rise sharply.
The bill also blocks a 0.5 percent cost-of-living pay increase for members of Congress, reversing parts of an executive order Obama issued last week — because Congress had yet to set the federal government’s pay scale for 2013.
Another provision dealt with nuclear weapons. It will alter a law setting conditions under which the president could reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Before, this could happen only after the president certified that Russia was abiding by its treaty obligations.
The bill changed “that” to “whether.” It was unclear on Tuesday which lawmaker had demanded this. Or, for that matter, why.
To many new House Republicans, this bill looked like the kind of overstuffed, underscrutinized monster they had promised to stop. In their “Pledge to America,” made before the 2010 elections, the GOP had promised to post every bill online for three days before it got a vote.