Brian Mark Weber / December 23, 2022

The Disgraceful $1.7T Omnibus

If this monstrosity becomes law, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 17 other Senate Republicans are to blame.

Four thousand one hundred fifty-five pages, and no one’s read them. One trillion seven hundred billion dollars, and no one has a plan to pay for it.

That’s what our federal government has been reduced to.

By a vote of 68-29, the Senate passed the 2023 fiscal year omnibus spending bill on Thursday. Shamefully, 18 of those yea votes belonged to Republicans. It now heads to the House, which Democrats control, and it’s expected to become law before members of Congress slink out of town for Christmas vacation.

Update: The House passed it later Friday, with nine Republicans helping to do so.

“Congress has passed a series of short-term funding measures since the fiscal year began on October 1 so they could manufacture a crisis in the waning days of 2022,” writes political analyst Philip Klein. “This has allowed congressional leaders and their staffs to hide behind closed doors, load a freight train with their preferred government-funded goodies, get the media to describe it as a ‘must-pass bill,’ and dare anybody to vote against the final product and risk shutting down the government ahead of Christmas.”

The $1.7 trillion price tag is nothing short of an insult to Americans, especially given that our economy is faltering largely thanks to previous congressional spending.

But it gets worse.

Republican Congressman Dan Bishop identified some of the most outrageous provisions of the bill. These include $1.5 million for U.S. Customs and Border Protection that cannot be used to enforce the border. Meanwhile, Bishop notes, $410 million will go to secure the borders of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman.

“Detecting something ‘fishy,’” The Daily Wire reports, “Bishop noted that the word ‘salmon’ appears 48 times in the bill, which includes a $65 million commitment to Pacific coastal salmon recovery. He also found $3 million for bee-friendly highways.”

Similarly, The Heritage Foundation found “woke” priorities in the omnibus package. These include $1.2 million for LGBTQIA+ Pride Centers, nearly half a million dollars for anti-racism training for Rhode Island teachers, $3.6 million for a Michelle Obama Trail in Georgia, and $3 million for an LGBTQIA+ museum in New York City.

In a 4,155-page bill, that’s only scratching the surface of the problems.

Many on the Right worry about the tens of billions more dollars pledged to Volodymyr Zelensky’s notoriously corrupt Ukraine, which has now received the largest amount of U.S. aid in history. Others argue that diminishing Russia’s ostensible military prowess is a good investment. In any case, spending on Ukraine is not the real fiscal problem in America.

Just when it seemed the omnibus package was a done deal earlier this week, some cracks appeared on Wednesday evening when 31 House Republicans had seen enough and pledged to block any legislative efforts of the GOP senators who supported the omnibus.

Over in the Senate, there was another brief glimmer of hope when Utah Republican Mike Lee threw a wrench into the spendaholics’ gears. The Hill reports: “Lee’s amendment to the bipartisan deal would cut funding for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s office unless the Biden administration reinstates the border control policy known as Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows for migrants to be quickly expelled at the border without asylum processing.”

But it wasn’t long before Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer found a legislative workaround to Lee’s amendment by creating a “side-by-side amendment” forcing Democrats and Republicans to vote separately, canceling out Lee’s amendment and ensuring the passage of the omnibus monstrosity in time for Christmas weekend.

Politicians in both parties wouldn’t have it any other way. The omnibus provides them with cover by preventing them from having to defend unconscionable votes on individual pieces of bad legislation.

“The political process here is as bad as most of the policy,” writes the editorial board at The Wall Street Journal. “Major changes in law deserve their own debate and vote. Instead, a handful of powerful legislators wrote this vast bill in a backroom. Members can use the need to fund the government as an excuse to say they supported, or opposed, specific provisions as future politics demands.”

It didn’t have to be this way, and it’s not the way the process was intended to work. Senate Republicans could have passed a short-term funding bill — a continuing resolution — to keep the government funded until the new Congress convenes on January 3. That Congress will have a Republican-controlled House and will thus put Republicans in a far stronger bargaining position for hammering out spending bills. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, though, along with a relative handful of Republican senators, have forfeited this advantage.

He doesn’t see it that way, of course. In fact, McConnell said he’s “pretty proud of the fact that with a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate, we were able to achieve through this omnibus spending bill essentially all of our priorities.” Isn’t it time for the 80-year-old McConnell to retire?

A seething Congressman Chip Roy of Texas wasted no time in outing the 18 Senate Republicans who voted for this abomination: Roy Blunt (Missouri), John Boozman (Arkansas), Shelley Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Jerry Moran (Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Mike Rounds (South Dakota), Richard Shelby (Alabama), John Thune (South Dakota), Roger Wicker (Mississippi), and Todd Young (Indiana). To our eyes, the only real surprise here might be Tom Cotton.

The Democrat-controlled House is expected to pass the omnibus today and send it off to the White House for Joe Biden’s signature.

Americans will celebrate Christmas on Sunday, but their elected leaders are the collective Grinch who stole $1.7 trillion from under the tree and left town in the cold of night. Unlike the Grinch, there’s little hope that Beltway spendthrifts will have a change of heart and do what’s right for the American people.

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