With passage of the 1.3 trillion-dollar Omnibus Spending Bill, taxpayer-funded programs get a new lease on life, while conservatives are left questioning why the president signed it in the first place.

The spending bill is not a budget and does not purport to be. Were it a true budget bill, then funds distribution would necessarily need to adhere to whatever was outlined in that bill. But a general spending bill, such as what was just passed, has a flaw, a flaw that former president Obama used to Democrats’ benefit with a past spending bill.

That is, the president has final say regarding how money is spent. Obama spent much of the money as he saw fit rather than as the bill’s designers had outlined. President Trump has that same authority. Whether he will use that authority to support conservative goals remains uncertain.

Back to the present. The current spending bill calls for another $1.34 billion for the Census Bureau, an agency that has become a priority for Democrats and which was used by the prior administration as a vehicle to gather personal information not included in a standard census.

The spending bill also gave the Community Development Block Grant program a whopping $5.2 billion. President Trump had attempted to eliminate this program altogether, but Democrats won on that point as well. Lots of other liberal, government organizations got spending boosts.

So what did conservatives gain from the president signing this bill? The main benefit is increased funding for the military. Finally, troops will get much-needed pay raises. Equipment can now be upgraded and a whole host of vitally important measures can proceed.

The border wall, a rallying point for conservatives, except for some repairs and a small amount of expansion, continues to go begging. And on and on for conservative priorities. But is there a chink in Democrat armor?

Will he?

The spending bill will remain in effect through Sept. 30. But despite signing it this time around, President Trump has announced that never again will he sign such a bill. He did it for the military. Now having that goal met, Democrats will have to work harder to get a similar bill passed next fall.

But still, conservatives are left wondering. What happened to all the campaign promises such as building a border wall and defunding Planned Parenthood? These and other conservative-minded measures were what conservatives had in mind when campaigning for and then electing Trump as president. Many of us feel let down. We thought Trump would “drain the swamp,” but it looks now as if something has clogged the drain.

The president, though, is fully aware of how President Obama handled a past omnibus spending bill. Obama deviated from the stated purpose of the bill on many fronts, earmarking funds for pet projects that were not present or even mentioned in the bill. Might President Trump do the same?

It’s a crapshoot, really, but if Trump really is crazy like a fox, then he may well have an ace up his sleeve. In other words, Trump can redirect funds intended for Democrat projects to those that he sees as important. And by doing so, Trump may still get his big, beautiful wall.

It all sounds a bit sneaky, but even if the president decides to follow Obama’s lead, he is in fact doing nothing but playing by the same rules that benefited his predecessor.

Government shutdown

Had President Trump not signed the Omnibus Spending Bill, the government would have shut down. And a government shutdown stands as one of the biggest political footballs ever. Whatever party the voting public deems responsible for a shutdown sees losses in the next election.

But for conservatives that threat seems all fluff and sound, with very little substance. Because when government shuts down, it doesn’t ever fully shut down. Essential services continue as before. Social Security checks still get sent out. The mail continues to get delivered and the military remains in place as always.

In fact, conservatives know that the silver lining in a government shutdown is that government, at least for a while, isn’t passing onerous laws.

So however Trump decides to handle this current spending package, Democrats should know that next time around will be vastly different from now. A government shutdown, if it occurs, will be entirely Democrat-owned.

Trump may well have a long-range plan that he is keeping under his hat. This president is no one to underestimate and before gloating over their temporary victory, Democrats should consider the ramifications of their actions next September. They may be playing into Trump’s open hand.

Tom Seymour is a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, book author, naturalist and forager. He lives in Waldo.