The Two Things You Should Know About – And Vote On – From the Omnibus Bill

Over the last week Congress has been debating the Omnibus bill, a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the government funded through most of 2015. As the name implies, countless programs and measures are included in it, and given its expansive scope oftentimes legislators will add in a couple miscellaneous provisions that actually have a dramatic effect on public policy.

Well, that’s exactly what happened over the last week. Specifically there were two additions that sparked controversy, and these are definitely things you should know about.

The first has to do with the way financial institutions are regulated. Back in 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act, which was meant to make banking activities more stable in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The bill prevented banks from using federally insured funds to hedge their risks in the derivatives market. Instead, banks would have to form subsidiaries and only these subsidiaries, which wouldn’t be insured by the federal government, could partake in risky betting. This was meant to make sure that savings of average Americans were not put at risk as they were in 2008.

However, language was added to the Omnibus bill towards the end of the debate that would do away with this provision, and allow major financial institutions to resume using federally insured funds in the risky derivatives market. Liberal Democrats such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have come out strongly against this, however they failed to get the language removed from the bill.

What’s your take on this? Learn more about the issue and weigh in on it here.

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The second controversial bit that was added to the Omnibus bill has to do with campaign finance laws, specifically with how much an individual can donate to a political party committee.

Currently, an individual can donate a maximum of $32,400 to a certain national party committee (there are several, the mains ones being the Democratic National Committee, Republican National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee). The new provision that was included with the omnibus bill, however, would allow a donor to give that same amount not only to an entire committee, but also to specialized funds set up within those major committees. Committees have funds that deal with specific aspects of their activities, such as funds to go towards presidential conventions, another for election recounts, and a host of others. A donor could contribute to as many as seven additional “accounts” within the committee, therefore making it possible for someone to give up to $388,000 to the parties.

The idea behind this provision is to give more power to political parties relative to outside political action committees, which have risen since the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court. The move was staunchly opposed by several members of the Tea Party, who saw it as a move by the Republican establishment to give themselves more power.

But what about you? Make your opinion heard on this online initiative.

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The Omnibus bill might not seem all that exciting, but that’s exactly why changes that would otherwise generate a lot of debate get thrown in at the last minute. And for our part, we at Civinomics hope to help you make sense of important issues like these and give you an outlet to make your voice heard.

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