Congress votes on budget bill, but marches on its stomach

An omnibus spending bill is expected to be passed by Congress, reportedly will be signed by the President, and will fund the U.S. Government until the end of September 2017.

President Trump failed to get much of what he had demanded from the Congressional bill. The Mexican border wall won’t get a bit of the funding he spelled out in his own budget “outline.” So the army of hundreds of private contractors waiting to bid and cash-in on it will have to wait to build Donald’s dream wall.

Another kick in the  White House budget priorities is that funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts survived. Not only did it survive, but in fact the NEA will get an increase! And for Big Bird and other PBS fans, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS funding mechanism) appropriation was not zeroed out as Trump dreamed, but will be level-funded for this period.

Housecafe1So Trump didn’t get much of what he wanted but reports that issues both the House of Representatives and Senate have with their dinning service vendors made it into the omnibus spending bill.

The House found the room in the massive spending bill to make known their complaints about the variety of food served in their cafeterias. “There is concern with continued food service issues surrounding lack of food variety, consistent quality of service, and management challenges with the food services provider,” appropriators drafting the omnibus spending agreement said in an accompanying report.

The current House food service vendor is the catering giant Sodexo, operating large dining halls, along with offering Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway. The spending bill’s report signals a potential interest in more chains.

And Senators, at least for purposes of the spending bill, are less concerned with the quality of food itself but with food service workers’ pay. Last year, the Department of Labor found that nearly 700 workers with the Senate’s food services had been underpaid. Restaurant Associates was found to have improperly classified workers in positions where they would make lower wages. The back pay due exceeded $1 million. The accompanying Senate report recommends more training for contract staff on labor laws as well as making worker rights information available in multi-language formats.

The old saying attesting to the need to be well provisioned attributed to both Frederick the Great and Napoleon goes: An army marches on its stomach. It seems members of Congress feel they can’t “march” properly unless they have more food optionsdifferent food chains providing their food. “And what’ll it be today Congressman, a nice GOP-friendly Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s Happy Donald Meal or perhaps one of former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s Godfather’s Pizzas?

And what about the Senate restaurant workers’ back pay issue? Well, some workers were already paid. However, thanks to modifications the Trump administration made to Obama-era labor-enforcement rules, other Senate restaurant workers may have more waiting to do before they see change.

One thought on “Congress votes on budget bill, but marches on its stomach

  1. I really like how you find and amplify these little nuggets that are so illuminating and otherwise would go by below/outside the glare of media attention to the Wall and other big issues. It’s good to pay that kind of attention (although this is not quite at the Snidely Whiplash level), especially since Donald’s strategy is misdirection – show a shiny (no)thing over there, while sliding in a whole bunch of little somethings that will change much larger issues for a much longer time.

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