This is part three concerning the omnibus bill. Part one, as many of you have discerned, was our optimistic New Year's message hinting at good things ahead, and part two was the announcement of the defunding language in the omnibus budget and how it got there.
These developments have led to the question of how long this will stop slaughter houses from returning to the US. I will attempt to explain the answer to that question. Like most things in Washington, the answer is a bit convoluted. However, I think it is safe to say it will stop their return for at least two years and here is why.
Budgets are, as we all know, a one-year affair that begins October 1st. The process is supposed to start with the President's budget, which is broken into 12 separate budgets (such as the Agriculture Budget), which in turn go to the various appropriations committees to be amended.
These budgets are then supposed to go to the floor of their respective houses for a vote. Following their passage in the Senate and House, the resulting budgets are supposed to go to a conference committee to hammer out differences, and then back to the House and Senate for a final vote.
But if there is one consistent theme in Congress, it is that they almost never do things the way they are supposed to. According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress has passed a full budget only three times in the past 26 years! Most years they pass a CR for all or most individual budgets.
Last year, the agriculture budgets got through the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, but neither reached their respective floors for a vote. Both budgets had defunding language, as did the President's budget. The budget for other departments didn't even get that far.
A CR, or Continuing Resolution, is merely a way of keeping spending at the same level (or at some multiple of the current level) for an additional period. The duration can be from a day to as much as the remainder of the current budget year.
An omnibus budget is yet another way for Congress to shortcut its budgeting process. This fiscal year, we got a series of short CRs, followed by an omnibus budget.
Since the omnibus was based on the bipartisan budget "framework" agreement reached a month earlier, and since that agreement was for two years, we can be sure that the 2015 budget will be a one-year CR.
Now it gets kind of ironic. The late Sue Wallis, Dave Duquette and even Charlie Stenholm had speculated publicly, and no doubt prayed, that there would be a CR for 2014. That would have continued the funding for inspections from the previous 2012 and 2013 budgets.
However there is something call an "anomaly" that can be added to a CR to place a restriction on certain funds. Since nobody was sure the omnibus would pass, a CR was indeed prepared and tucked away to keep the government funded the rest of the year if the omnibus blew up.
That CR contained an anomaly that prohibited any funds from being used for horse slaughter inspections. So had they been forced to use the CR, it would have had the same outcome (defunding). We knew this well before the budget deal was struck, and actually expected that is the way things would go.
And why is this important going forward? It is important because it was none other than Secretary Vilsack who signed off on the anomaly. That explains why Victoria wanted to thank him. It also means that it will be virtually impossible for the pro-slaughter camp to accomplish a removal of the defunding language for the 2015 budget CR.
So the plants are locked out for two years and probably more. And that is the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would have said.