As Congress moves toward a vote this week on a long overdue budget plan to fund the operations of the federal government for the rest of the current fiscal year, the fine print of that bipartisan deal again shows a variety of efforts by the Legislative Branch to rein in the use of taxpayer dollars, blocking everything from a military base closure commission, to spending government money on 'topless or nude entertainers.'
The provisions in the 1,665 page bill are headlined by the phrase, "None of the funds" - as the Congress tells the Executive Branch that taxpayer dollars cannot be spent on specific items or activities.
A search of the "Omnibus" spending deal uncovered over 460 instances where the Congress makes clear how money should not be spent.
Here are some of those restrictions:
+ No Chinese Chicken in school lunches. First approved by Congress in a 2014 spending bill, the ban on Chinese poultry for school lunches is back in this Omnibus spending measure. "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to procure processed poultry products imported into the United States from the People’s Republic of China for use in the school lunch program under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act."
+ Keep Naked Dancing off government charge cards. After an internal Pentagon report several years ago found government charge cards were being used by civilian and military employees at casinos, and for adult entertainment, Congress is making clear that such card use is not approved "for gaming, or for entertainment that includes topless or nude entertainers or participants."
+ Don't close down my military base. The Omnibus bars the use of taxpayer dollars to create any military Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). One thing to chuckle about is that prohibition on spending money appears in the bill just after the 'topless or nude entertainers' provision.
+ Make that mooring chain in the U.S. Once again, the defense portion of this bill includes a provision that directs the Pentagon to only buy ship mooring chains that are Made in America. "None of the funds in this Act may be available for the purchase by the Department of Defense (and its departments and agencies) of welded shipboard anchor and mooring chain 4 inches in diameter and under unless the anchor and mooring chain are manufactured in the United States from components which are substantially manufactured in the United States."
+ Keep the Chinese away from NASA. Congress is continuing a ban on spending any taxpayer dollars to host visitors from China; this began six years ago, and has been kept around after concerns that a Chinese scientist working with NASA was really a spy. "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA."
+ Don't screw with states that have medical marijuana laws. One provision in the Omnibus specifically tells the Executive Branch not to try to do anything to stop states "from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."
+ Leave the Hurricane Hunter planes alone. Stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron often gets a line in these funding bills, telling the Executive Branch not to even think about transferring their duties and planes elsewhere. "None of the funds appropriated or made available in this Act shall be used to reduce or disestablish the operation of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the Air Force Reserve."
+ Don't change the $1 bill. A yearly feature when it comes to "None of the funds," is a provision from the Congress that tells the feds to leave the $1 bill alone. None of the funds appropriated in this Act or otherwise available to the Department of the Treasury or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing may be used to redesign the $1 Federal Reserve note."
+ A reminder that reading the bill isn't enough. When you research the "none of the funds" spending restraints, it becomes obvious that you need to know a little more on some of these provisions - "none of the funds made available to the Federal Trade Commission may be used to implement subsection (e)(2)(B) of section 43 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1831t)." Google that one and figure it out.
+ No federal steps on a national ID card. Just in case anyone was thinking about doing it, the Omnibus makes clear yet again that the Executive Branch should stay away from the issue. "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for planning, testing, piloting, or developing a national identification card."
+ No government propaganda or fake news. "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to disseminate information that is deliberately false or misleading."
+ No money for a group that no longer exists. Even after disbanding in 2010, and filing for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy laws, the group "ACORN" is still getting Legislative Shade thrown at it by the Congress.
+ Don't drop off a Congressional telephone book. I am old enough to remember when it was a valuable document - the Congressional phone book. But times have changed, and lawmakers are again including prohibitions on spending money to print and deliver that in the halls of Congress - in the House. "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to deliver a printed copy of the United States House of Representatives Telephone Directory to the office of any Member of the House of Representatives
+ Limits on overtime pay at Amtrak. One provision in the Omnibus says that if you are an employee at Amtrak, you can't make over $35,000 per year in overtime pay. That's a little less than in the Department of Homeland Security, where employees are limited to no more than $45,000 a year in overtime.
+ Some messages to the District of Columbia. Seven provisions in this bill tell the government of Washington, D.C. what it cannot do with federal tax dollars - one of them dealing with putting pressure on the Congress itself. "None of the Federal funds provided in this Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes or implementation of any policy including boycott designed to support or defeat legislation pending before Congress or any State legislature."
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