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Congress Releases $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Bill Days Before Friday Deadline

Congress Releases $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Bill Days Before Friday Deadline

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.

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.'”

IRS Changes

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

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.”

Health Care

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.”

Guns

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.

Baseball

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.

Some Pushback

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:

Amash and others have gone on a rampage on Twitter about the process and the fact that it’s not fiscally responsible:

https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/974807665154158592

https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/976654427913375744

https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/976650865078661121

https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/976570081613402114

https://twitter.com/RepThomasMassie/status/976543361812324352

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Comments

Have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it?

CaliforniaJimbo | March 22, 2018 at 11:58 am

Tired of these omnibus pork laden bills. Can’t we just chop it up with separate spending bills instead of these behemoths that hide the pork ?
Time to end baseline budgeting. Each dept starts with 0$ and must justify their needs.

Gosh. I wonder why members of Congress are facing such hostile crowds when they host Town Halls? Is there any demographic left that that our Institutional Government™ has NOT p*ssed off?

buckeyeminuteman | March 22, 2018 at 12:40 pm

$541M for a tunnel between NJ and NY but only $1.6M for border security? With language that explicitly bars a wall? WTF country am I living in? I thought Republicans controlled Congress. I thought DJT was president. Makes me mad as hell.

    Correct number is “1.6 billion” not “million.”

      buckeyeminuteman in reply to Rabel. | March 22, 2018 at 4:00 pm

      Either way, I had high hopes that Republicans would cut the wasteful spending and the national debt may start to actually decrease. I guess you can wish in one hand and you-know-what in the other. One is certainly going to fill up first.

    I’m very interested to hear how the citizens of, say, Nevada benefit from this tunnel project, that they should be willing to spend their tax dollars on it.

    Good grief, why is this stuff at the Federal level to begin with? They’re like a bunch monarchists, giving out gift baskets to the poor peasantry.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to ss396. | March 23, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      This tunnel project almost completely benefits commuting workers.

      For over sixty years Flint used money they collected to maintain their water system for every but the water system. Their water problems were completely self inflicted.

      This decrepit tunnel and rail system are a similar issue, and taxpayers outside NJ and NY should not be paying anything to fix this.

      In both cases they made their beds, and now they should have to live with the consequences.

So shut down the government until the bill is read, understood, and debated. Or do a continuing resolution to keep the government running until it can be done right.

    buckeyeminuteman in reply to kjon. | March 22, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    With 5 continuing resolutions already approved this FY, what makes you think they’re ever going to get it right? Both parties just spend up until the deadline, say the world will end if they don’t agree to spend more, then spend up until that next self-imposed deadline.

This spending has gotten so far out of hand I’m not sure anything can reel it back in. While I can support some of the spending, pork spending needs to be pulled out and if it has it’s own merits, then pass that separately.

Putting it out this late is absurdity. Bills should be read, thoroughly and maybe even have a quiz afterward making each congress critter answer it, and if they don’t have a passing grade, they aren’t allowed to vote on it.

I am no fan of Senator Rand Paul, but there are things in which I agree with him. I don’t think I could give this an up vote from what I have seen it contains.

These congress people have dealt with spending tax payer dollars in huge amounts for far too long, and to them it is just Monopoly money. Every department, every asset of government should have to justify the money they are to receive. In the private sector we rarely see 10% growth in our spending, or in our salaries, why is that government seems to have set that as the minimum additional spending every year?

I’m surprised Rand can lift all that heavy paper with those recently healed bones and bruises.

Swamp critters well fed – taxpayers screwed again. Same old same old.

Other than a small nucleus of conservatives the GOP is an extension of the DNC. Officially the loyal opposition gone nationwide.

DieJustAsHappy | March 22, 2018 at 6:51 pm

A six-month bill. That means they’ll be going through this exercise in September? Right before the 2018 mid-terms. Oh, goody. I can hear the excuses now. Never seen a group who could find so many ways to foul their own nest.

If Pelosi & Schumer had written it, would anything be different?

It looks as though the Democrats wrote this bill. The GOP politicians are now making NO attempt to even make it look as though they are attempting to honor their decade long campaign promises. Honesty finally rears its head in Washington, D.C.

JusticeDelivered | March 23, 2018 at 3:03 pm

To stop ever incre4asing debt we need to start extracking our pound of flesh out of parasites.

A good place to start is with Mexico. They are receiving about $70 billion dollars a year, which is being transferred by their former residents each year to relatives in Mexico.

Mexico is profiting handsomely from its citizens invading America.

How about we make those people pay a hefty fee, say 20%, to fund border security?

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