WASHINGTON — Read the bill! It was a rallying cry of the tea party in 2010 and of Republicans bitter about a 906-page health care law that few proponents had read. Republicans made a “read the bill” pledge and vowed that they would put the text of bills online at least 72 hours before votes.
A very different Republican Party rushed a massive spending bill through the House last week, just 44 hours after it was posted. The bill was 1,582 pages and accompanying explanatory statements added another 1,278, which means lawmakers had less than a minute to read each page, even if they didn’t sleep.
This was an ugly and gargantuan spending bill, cutting vital programs while sending goodies to well-connected industries. And yet there was some good news in the swift and easy passage through the House, followed quickly by the Senate. It means business-as-usual is returning to the Capitol.
There’s nothing to love about Washington’s business-as-usual, in which lawmakers on both sides do the bidding of the powerful. Yet even this is better than the endless crises and constant brinkmanship of the last three years. The spending bill also offers another sign that the tea party activists and affiliated organizations are losing their hold on Republicans.
This has similarities to what happened a few years after the Republican Revolution of 1994, when the revolutionaries began to act like the Democratic majorities they had deplored. Then, as now, the rebels left their mark; in this case, they succeeded in reducing non-entitlement spending at a rate not seen in decades. But comb through the $1.1 trillion “omnibus” spending bill, as the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense has done, and you’ll see a return to the old ways:
— The bill gives at least $62 million, and possibly as much as $119 million, to the United States Enrichment Corp., a government spinoff that last month announced plans to file for bankruptcy.