Lots of money for the Pentagon and even the IRS.
Congress released its 2,232 page, $1.3 trillion omnibus bill late Wednesday night, which is only about 48 hours before the deadline for passage.
That’s right. Lawmakers have basically 24 hours to read through the bill and pass it by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
Gee, where do I start before I go all Ron Swanson on the bill. First of all, the bill increases funding “for military and domestic programs above current spending caps.” It lacks protection for Dreamers, which was a big sticking point for Democrats.
Well here it is, all 2,232 budget-busting pages. The House already started votes on it. The Senate is expected to soon. No one has read it. Congress is broken… pic.twitter.com/izvJlUEgUM
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018
Anyway, I’ll try to make sense of it all for you guys.
What is the Omnibus Bill?
This bill will fund the government until September 30. Congress has passed numerous stopgap bills during this fiscal year. The breakdown as The Washington Post explained:
Under that agreement, defense spending generally favored by Republicans is set to jump $80 billion over previously authorized spending levels, while domestic spending favored by Democrats rises by $63 billion. The defense funding includes a 2.4 percent pay raise for military personnel and $144 billion for Pentagon hardware. The domestic spending is scattered across the rest of the federal government, but lawmakers are highlighting increases in funding for infrastructure, medical research, veterans programs and efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. Civilian federal employees get a 1.9 percent pay raise, breaking parity with the military for the first time in several years.
Pentagon & Defense
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said this massive bill “fulfills the pledge to rebuild the U.S. military.” The bill has $654.6 billion for defense, which includes “money for overseas war funding and the war on terror.”
The added money puts the 2018 military budget at $700 billion and then $716 billion in 2019.
It states that$1.6 million will be allocated to border security funding. However, the bill also “prohibits a concrete wall or new wall technology” that President Donald Trump propped up when he visited the border. Instead, Trump will have to use the “technology available when Congress passed the 2006 Secure Fence Act.”
Democrats won a small fight on immigration. ICE is restricted and only allowed “no more than 40,354 immigrants in detention by the time the fiscal year ends in September.” However, DHS has the discretion “to transfer funds from other accounts ‘as necessary to ensure the detention of aliens prioritized for removal.'”
Yes, the Omnibus bill contains a change for the IRS. The tax agency’s budget balloons up to $11.43 billion thanks to a $200 million raise. From AJC:
There will be $320 million specifically dedicated to implementation of the new tax cut law, which was approved late in 2017, in order to change all the forms, schedules, and internal systems to reflect those changes in tax year 2018. $350 million will be directed to improve IRS customer service, which has been suffering more and more telephone delays in recent years. It was a bit of a switch for the GOP to be bragging about how much money they were spending at the IRS, instead of vowing to find new ways to cut the budget at the tax agency.
Taylor Force Act
One plus of the bill is the inclusion of the Taylor Force Act. I’ve blogged about the act many times, which is named after the American veteran killed by Palestinians in 2016. The act pulls funding to the Palestinian Authority until they stop providing funds to terrorists who kill Jews and Americans.
Infrastructure projects receive funding, but one is missing. I blogged earlier this week that some lawmakers wanted to include a provision for improvements on a rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey. Trump objected to the $900 billion project and Transportation secretary Elaine Cho mentioned it “simply wasn’t ready for prime time.”
But as WaPo points out, Democrats found a way to fund the project without earmarking it. The project remains “eligible for as much as $541 million in funding this fiscal year through accounts that Chao does not control” plus it “might also still qualify for other pools of money, though it will have to compete with other projects on an equal playing field.”
The Omnibus bill presented an opportunity to repeal the employer mandate. I figured it wouldn’t be in this bill because it wouldn’t get past the Senate.
The bill doesn’t have the provision Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) championed, which “would have allowed states to establish high-risk pools to help cover costly insurance claims while restoring certain payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act.” The Democrats didn’t want it, though, because to them “it included language expanding the existing prohibition on federal funding for abortions.” That prohibition is called the Hyde Amendment and the GOP wanted the amendment “applied to any funds aimed at lowering ObamaCare premiums.”
The omnibus bill has the Fix NCIS Act which lawmakers want to use to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. From WaPo:
It provides for incentives and penalties to encourage federal agencies and states to send records to the federal database in an effort to prevent the type of oversight that preceded last year’s church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Tex. Democrats pushed for more aggressive gun laws, including universal background checks, but only won a minor concession: Language in the report accompanying the bill clarifying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can, in fact, conduct research into gun violence. A longstanding rider known as the Dickey Amendment, which states that no CDC funds “may be used to advocate or promote gun control,” has been interpreted in the past to bar such research. The amendment itself remains.
Yes, the omnibus bill includes BASEBALL. The bill allows a small raise for minor league players:
The Save America’s Pastime Act exempts pro baseball players from federal labor laws and has been a major lobbying priority for Major League Baseball ever since minor-league players began suing the league in recent years for paying them illegally low wages. The version in the bill only exempts players working under a contract that pays minimum wage, but there are major loopholes: The contract only has to pay minimum wage for a 40-hour workweek during the season, not spring training or the offseason — and it includes no guarantee of overtime even though baseball prospects routinely work long hours. Thus, under the bill, a player is guaranteed a minimum salary of $1,160 a month. The current minor-league minimum is $1,100 a month.
Chad Pergram at Fox News penned a great op-ed on this monstrosity, noting that one needs Cliff Notes to go through it. He wrote that Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), along with every other lawmaker, has not seen the text of the bill and yet have to read it to pass it by Friday.
Kennedy said the entire “process sucks” and that “whoever designed this isn’t qualified to run a food truck.” He also said that senators would “probably get a memo on it tomorrow written in Swahili.”
He called it a “Great Dane-sized whizz down the leg of every taxpayer” and that every person “who participated in this process ought to put a bag over their heads.”
Pergram rightfully noted that dropping a huge bill like this at the last minute drives voters insane along with members of Congress and Congressional aides.
The House Liberty Caucus, headed by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), released this statement this morning, urging lawmakers to oppose HR 796, which is a rule for the bill:
— House Liberty Caucus (@libertycaucus) March 22, 2018
Amash and others have gone on a rampage on Twitter about the process and the fact that it’s not fiscally responsible:
The combined corruption, incompetence, and indifference in Congress is astounding.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 21, 2018
As early as Wednesday, the House plans to vote on a trillion-dollar spending bill—stuffed with all sorts of unrelated measures—and we don’t even have the text. That’s insane. This leadership team has found a way to make the process worse than existed under @SpeakerBoehner.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 19, 2018
Here’s Ryan’s maiden speech in 2015: “When we rush to pass bill that a lot of us don’t understand, we are not doing our job.” https://t.co/YmnLz2YNOz
— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) March 21, 2018
.@Jim_Jordan on omnibus bill: “How are you really gonna know what’s in it if you got 24 hours from the time you get the completed version until you’re supposed to vote on it? That’s not the way to do things.” @TeamCavuto pic.twitter.com/lD8Pbo11I9
— Fox News (@FoxNews) March 21, 2018
It’s a good thing we have Republican control of Congress or the Democrats might bust the budget caps, fund planned parenthood and Obamacare, and sneak gun control without due process into an Omni…wait, what?
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 21, 2018
Congress is about to vote on a $1.6 trillion funding bill, privately written by congressional leaders (still yet to be made public)–giving members and the public around 24 hours to read its 2,000 pages.
This is the total opposite of what Americans voted for. When will we learn?
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) March 21, 2018
What’s in the omnibus bill that will fund the entire country on Wednesday? No one can tell you for sure. The deadline was sept 30, 2017. It’s probably the only consequential bill that will pass this year. There is a serious problem with this process!
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 20, 2018
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