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Congress's Omnibus Monstrosity
$772.5 billion for "non-defense discretionary programs."
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It’s often easy to forget why Congress’s laughably bad 22% approval rating is so well deserved. Thankfully, they do an excellent job of reminding us, with the new $1,700,000,000,000 omnibus spending bill to fund government operations through September 2023 serving as the latest evidence that our elected leaders are living up to their reputations as empty suits.
The $1.7 trillion bill, which gives all sorts of government agencies and programs way more money than they received in 2022 and more than Biden’s budget requested, is all the more outrageous because the Democratic majorities in both chambers spent much of the year accomplishing very little (they didn’t even pass a budget resolution as required by law, for God’s sake), with the Senate holding just 137 recorded votes related to legislation in the first 50 weeks of the year. As National Review’s Brian Riedl points out, in an earlier era, 137 votes would have constituted a productive week.
So, not only did they do jack squat this year, but they’ve decided to indulge in what amounts to a year-end spending spree, waiting until the last minute and stapling 35 separate bills together into one giant $2 trillion omnibus bill. And rank-and-file lawmakers have been duly warned that they’re not allowed to offer any changes or amendments to the package because parts of the government are only days from shutting down, Congress is about to adjourn, and nobody wants to spend Christmas in Washington, D.C.
House Republicans are taking issue with the bill being rushed through Congress this week, and rightly so, not just because of the measure’s massive size, but because it’s literally impossible for lawmakers to read through a 4,155 page blank check before the vote tomorrow, Friday the 23rd, which is when Biden is supposed to sign it. The omnibus was released around 0200 on December 20th, and less than 12 hours later Congress was already voting to begin debate on the bill, which is ridiculous considering that to have read the entire thing by then you would’ve needed to read 4+ pages per minute, without a single break, for 16 hours straight.
And we haven’t even mentioned the 2,670 pages of “explanatory statements” that further define the spending. Included in the extra documents are hundreds of pages that detail some 4,000 earmarks, AKA pork projects, costing billions of dollars that the federal government doesn’t have—and that will come out of taxpayer wallets. Earmarks were banned for 10 years, but lawmakers from both parties have brought them back. I took the liberty of collating some of the biggest jaw-droppers and head-shakers:
$410 million for “border security” in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman. Amazing. Meanwhile, Democrats have all but erected turnstiles at our southern border, which is clearly not a priority.
$65 million for Salmon. If you pull up the bill and search for the word “Salmon,” you’ll find that it appears 48 times.
$3 million for the “Pollinator-Friendly Practices on Roadsides and Highway Rights of Way Program,” AKA bee-friendly highways.
$477k for “antiracist” training from the Equity Institute.
$8.6 million for “gender advisor programs” in the Pentagon.
$26 million for the House of Representatives Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
$200 million for the Gender Equity Fund.
$750k for the “TransLatin@ Coalition.”
$2.35 million in improvement/maintenance for the Iditarod Trail.
$1.5 million to encourage people to eat outdoors in Pasadena, California.
$575 million for “family planning” in areas where population growth “threatens biodiversity,” AKA malthusianism.
$3 million for the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic.
$750,000 for “LGBT and Gender Non-Conforming housing” in Albany, New York.
$3.6 million for the Michelle Obama Trail.
$3 million for the LGTBQ+ museum in New York City.
$4.1 million for various career programs in Fairfax, one of the richest counties in the country.
$524 million for a DEI and “structural racism” subdivision in the National Institutes of Health.
$10.1 billion for the EPA, an increase of $576 million above FY22. It includes $108 million for “Environmental Justice” activities.
$1 million for “Zora’s House” in Ohio, a “coworking and community space” for “women and gender-expansive people of color.”
$335 million to prepare for an influenza pandemic, which also includes the use of “surveillance tools.”
$7.5 million to better understand the “domestic radicalization phenomenon.”
$11.33 billion for the FBI, which is $569.6 million more than in 2022 and $524 million more than Biden requested. A summary from the House Appropriations Committee says this will help expand efforts to “investigate extremist violence and domestic terrorism.”
$817k for partnerships with “justice-involved individuals” in Glendale, CA.
$400k for the “Racial Justice Improvement Project.”
$2.63 billion for U.S. Attorneys, with an emphasis on J6 prosecutions and domestic terrorism cases.
$70 million for minority business development, a $15 million increase from last year.
$982k for motel vouchers in Los Angeles.
$1.3 million for a “recommendation for alcohol” in the 2025 dietary guidelines.
It’s important to note that this Friday “deadline” preventing lawmakers from reading and amending the year’s most important bill is intentional and not based on some kind of emergency. Over the past year, any of these provisions could have, and should have been analyzed, debated, and amended, with texts released well in advance of any vote so that they could be read. Really, what looks like an absolute shit show of incompetence is a thinly veiled ploy to let congressional leaders off the hook, allowing them to ram through their priorities with as little scrutiny as possible.
For over two decades now, legislative leaders have been using delayed negotiations as a tactic. They essentially manufacture a crisis so they can load up a massive “must-pass bill” meant to bully lawmakers into passing a bunch of smaller, unpopular bills. For example, any representative who wants to finance the military must also vote to appropriate $3.6 million for the Michelle Obama Trail.
The point is to dare anyone to vote against the omnibus and risk shutting down the government ahead of the holidays, and the bill is rife with opportunities for emotional blackmail. Think about Zelensky’s decision to visit Washington yesterday and the added pressure that put on lawmakers to act on the measure, which includes another $47 billion in military aid for Ukraine (on top of the $68 billion already given)—more than the amount allotted ($40.6 billion) to help U.S. communities recovering from natural disasters.
“Finalizing the omnibus is critical, absolutely critical for supporting our friends in Ukraine,” declared Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, whose long-repressed cheerleader-ambitions usually reveal themselves at times like this.
Doubtless, those who vote no on the bill will be subjected to negative political ads, which will be straightforward. Recall last year when Biden attacked Republicans and called them “soft” on Russia for voting against an omnibus bill that funded Ukraine because the vast majority of the bill was also one big liberal spending spree.
Needless to say, it’s absolutely ridiculous for Congress to approve another $1.7 trillion in government spending under the shadow of historic inflation and with a fiscal crisis looming on the horizon.
Democratic representatives are of course in support of the Pelosi-Schumer spending bill, but it’s at least nice to see that some Republican officials are objecting to this legislative monstrosity and calling for fiscal restraint.
On Tuesday, a group of 13 House Republicans issued a threat to conservative colleagues in the Senate who vote in favor of the bill.
“Due respect for Americans who elected us would call for not passing a lame duck spending bill just days before Members fly home for Christmas and two weeks before a new Republican majority is sworn in for the 118th Congress,” they wrote. “Senate Republicans have the 41 votes necessary to stop this and should do so now.”
With Republicans set to seize the House majority in two weeks — a much needed check on the unfettered spending of Democrats, which truly has no precedence in the annals of history — there’s little reason to rush through a Democratic spending bill that will govern Washington through at least next September. In fact, since 1954, control of the House has changed five times and there has never been an instance of Congress passing an omnibus spending bill before a new House majority takes power. To do so now would not only defy precedent, it would effectively tie the hands of the incoming Republican majority.
Common sense would seem to suggest that Congress should simply extend the current spending levels for another month by passing a continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown, and then come back and actually conduct stand-alone votes on non-spending bills. But as we all know well, common sense is all but anathema to these people.