There are many signs that our politics are broken; one of them is the constant need to create new words to more exactly describe the terrible state of affairs. Most recently, we’ve been saddled with “cromnibus,” which is a portmanteau of “continuing resolution or CR” and “omnibus.” A continuing resolution is a way to appropriate funds to keep the government operational, usually done under some form of duress and/or out of a desire to avoid the hard choices involved in drawing up a new budget. An omnibus bill is a bunch of disparate bills lumped together so they can be voted on at once. It’s basically a gimmick to pass unpopular bills by forcing members of Congress to approve the bad legislation along with the good.
A cromnibus bill wasn’t just a bad idea; it was two very bad ideas rolled into one. Naturally, President Obama has indicated he will sign the bill if it passes. If the House GOP and this Democratic White House agree on appropriations, you can be sure that the legislation is bad for taxpayers. And after handing Republicans a historic victory in last month’s election, we’re sure voters are going to be thrilled to learn the supposed party of fiscal responsibility slapped together a metric truckload of spending bills on short notice and got to work strong-arming the bare minimum number of votes needed to get it passed.
Though it is currently fashionable to pass the bill to find out what’s in it, at National Review Online Yuval Levin was masochistic enough to read the cromnibus ahead of time. He notes the following section of the bill as a classic example of how bad legislation gets made:
SEC. 102. MODIFICATION OF TREATMENT OF CERTAIN HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS. (a) IN GENERAL.—Paragraph (5) of section 833(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended—(1) by striking ‘‘this section’’ and inserting ‘‘paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection (a)’’, and (2) by inserting ‘‘and for activities that improve health care quality’’ after ‘‘clinical services’’. (b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2009.
What exactly does this mean? Well, this essentially rejiggers the way medical loss ratios are calculated in Obamacare, which in turn dictates how much money insurers, as private companies, can spend on overhead vs. paying for medical care. Except in this case, it only applies to one insurer—Blue Cross/Blue Shield—and is retroactive four years. One of the nation’s most powerful insurance companies would get a huge fiscal break from Obamacare regulations, giving them a competitive advantage over the rest of America’s insurance companies (nearly all of whom lobbied for Obamacare in the first place).
In other words, the 2,700-page Obamacare legislation created a problem for insurers, so one insurer lobbied for a loophole buried in opaque legalese in a 1,600-page omnibus bill wrapped in a continuing resolution. Once you know what’s really going on here, it’s more accurate to say the CR in cromnibus stands for cronyism.