WASHINGTON – What’s 4,155 pages long and spends $1.7 trillion of your money?
It’s the massive omnibus bill members of Congress are trying to ram through the House and Senate before a partial government shutdown would start at 11:59 p.m. Friday and potentially force lawmakers to spend Christmas at the Capitol to resolve the impasse.
The bill is already more than half-finished, with $858 billion parceled out last week when Congress passed the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
That leaves about $772.5 billion for non-defense, so-called “discretionary” programs, including:
- $118.7 billion for the Veterans Administration
- $44.9 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies as Kyiv it continues its defense against Russia’s 10-month-old invasion — including funding for Ukraine’s military, shoring up US weapon stocks and economic support to Ukraine’s government.
- $40.6 billion in disaster funding to help communities recovering from extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires and floods
- $39 billion to the Justice Department, including $11.3 billion to the FBI and $2.6 billion to US Attorneys offices — an amount that includes “prosecutions related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol and domestic terrorism cases,” according to a fact sheet released by lawmakers. The bill also provides $735 million in funding to the US Capitol Police – an increase of about $132 million – to bring the total force to an estimated 2,126 officers and 567 civilians.
- $15.3 billion in so-called “community project funding,” which will go toward 7,200 public works nationwide — including $3 million to a proposed “universal hip-hop museum” in the Bronx and a $3.6 million hiking trail in Georgia named after former First Lady Michelle Obama
- $12 billion on the Head Start program
- $5 billion on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
House Republicans have pushed back on both the amount of spending and what the money is being spent on. On Wednesday, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) pointed out what he called “some of the most egregious” provisions in the bill.
Among those Bishop cited were:
- $524.4 million for the National Institutes of Health to fund a subdivision focused on “minority health and health disparities research.
- $410 to reimburse Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman for tighter border security.
- $65 million “for necessary expenses associated with the restoration of Pacific salmon populations.”
- $65 million for salmon?” Bishop tweeted. “Seems fishy.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisted Wednesday that passing the omnibus before the holiday break remains the best option, especially to ensure the military receives critical funding as soon as possible.
“The bipartisan Republican bill before this body is imperfect but strong,” he said. “It will make huge new investments in our armed forces while cutting non-defense, non-veterans baseline spending in real dollars.”
But McConnell’s rival, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) called on Congress to delay the omnibus vote until the new GOP-led House takes over next month and can trim the budget.
“There are people going to food banks that weren’t going to food banks before, people coming out of retirement because they can’t afford inflation,” Scott said Wednesday. “It’s only going to stop if we stop wasteful spending.”
Scott also said that more time was needed simply to read through the massive legislation.
“With OVER 4,000 pgs, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to read the bill before funding expires at 12AM Friday,” he said on Twitter. “It’s 3.5x the length of the Bible for goodness sakes. We shouldn’t vote on things we and the American people haven’t had time to read.”
The new omnibus does cut some of the left’s earlier, larger requests – such as an extension on a provision on the enhanced child tax that would have made more of the lowest-income families eligible for the full $2,000 benefit that would have affected some 19 million children.
It also scales back Medicaid spending, phasing out a pandemic-era requirement that prevented states from unenrolling beneficiaries during the national public health emergency in exchange for an enhanced federal match. The measure, enacted in March 2020, contributed to the number of Medicaid enrollees skyrocketing to a record 90 million.
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