With the defeat of the massive Omnibus bill (is it really dead or was it all just a dream?), many Americans breathed a sigh of relief.
Of course, Congress has not adjourned for the year so we really don’t know what is going to happen, but there still are winners and losers.
Here in Montana, we witnessed the back and forth between Congressman Denny Rehberg (R) and Senator Jon Tester (D) about Tester being allowed to insert his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act language into the bill.
We also witnessed some of the Montana media trying to decipher the back and forth and understand how a bill becomes a law. Some, in my humble opinion, seemed to side with Tester in their blogs – like a love affair…
We soon found out it was not the same language from the original bill, but “very similar to the version he introduced a year and a half ago” according to Tester’s website.
That was one of several problems Tester had with the bill. Other issues were that his original bill never received a vote – not in committee or on the Senate floor. It never made it to the House for debate – and that made his “very similar” bill seem even that much more wrong.
It looks like the first-term senator bit off more than even he could chew with his forest/wilderness bill, but we won’t know for sure until the House and Senate adjourns for this Congress.
If it were easy, Senator Max Baucus would have done it years ago. Forests, wilderness, logging, and recreation are some of the most contentious issues in the West.
Rehberg hammered away at Tester’s “backroom” deal and held an emergency tele-town hall meeting where 5,500 Montanans called in to ask questions and hear from Rehberg. It’s pretty impressive when you can get 5,500 Montanans to do anything, but Rehberg did.
It was great political theater and Rehberg, with less staff and resources than Tester, won this one. Tester lost credibility and harmed his re-election bid. Some folks hope the back and forth between Rehberg and Tester will be decided in November 2012.
The (supposedly) final blow to the Omnibus bill did not happen because of Tester’s forest/wilderness bill or Rehberg hammering him. It was about nine GOP senators who thought twice about voting for the bill that would have given the Senate Democrats a victory. The spending was freakishly massive. The earmarks (from both sides) were a rallying point although they were just a small percentage of the overall bill. These GOP senators bailed on Majority Leader Harry Reid and he had to pull the Omnibus bill from consideration.
The American people are winners. Some money was saved. But we are also losers because Congress is still broken.