All Aboard The $1.5 Trillion Omnibus, Cheerio, Pip-Pip!
It's only an omnibus. It is neither omnipotent nor omniscient.

Huzzay! Congress has finally passed a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the US government through the end of fiscal 2022, which, on calendars not printed by the W.Z. Fiscal Printing Works of Poughkeepsie, would be the end of September. That means we get nearly six whole months before anyone starts talking about a government shutdown again, and even then, it might be nice to think Republicans might decide not to drive the government into the ditch right before the midterm elections. You just never know what's going to get them all worked up, though.

Oh, yes, let's back up a skosh here: What is an omnibus spending bill? As we explained the last time the government was close to running out of money, at the beginning of February, one of Congress's main jobs is paying for the US government to do all its governing things, from launching rockets into what they tell us is "outer space" to making sure there's no more than 15 fruit fly eggs per 100 grams in our tomato sauce. In Olden Times, like the 1990s we guess, nobody remembers, Congress would do all this in a dozen spending bills, one for each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees in the House. Each bill would authorize a year's worth of funding for the corresponding government agencies.

Congress generally still does that for some spending, like the annual defense authorization bill. But it's a lot of work, and requires Republicans and Democrats to actually work together sometimes, so in recent years, it's more common for the previous year's budget bills to expire before a new budget is passed; therefore, to avoid partial government shutdowns, Congress either punts by passing a continuing resolution, which keeps funding at the existing level for a few weeks (that's what's been done multiple times since September 2021), or an omnibus spending bill that authorizes spending for great big chunks of government that didn't get their own authorizations.

That latter thingum is what the Senate passed yesterday (the House passed it Wednesday) and now Joe Biden can sign it, halfway into the current fiscal year. Up until now, the government has been funded at 2021 levels, apart from special spending like the pandemic relief bill and that sort of thing. There's every reason to assume that the funding levels in the new omnibus bill will hold well into fiscal (and calendar) 2023, too, because this fall, ain't nobody going to be hammering out a budget compromise.

If it all sounds insane, that's fine, and it's actually become the norm: Congress hasn't passed a full budget for the October 1 start of the fiscal year since 1998. At least this state of affairs gives pundits and think tanks something to do; proposals to fix the federal budget process are probably about as common as white papers on Middle East peace, and have every bit as much chance of being enacted.

So what's in this sucker? As that omni prefix suggests, it's everything, and surprisingly, not just all the buses. CNN has a decent summary, as does Roll Call. Mostly, it amounts to "more of the same, plus extras":

On a 68-31 vote, the Senate passed the 2,700-page, $1.5 trillion omnibus containing all 12 fiscal 2022 spending bills, $13.6 billion in supplemental appropriations to address the crisis in Ukraine and a lengthy list of unrelated measures fortunate enough to ride on the must-pass vehicle.

As Republicans sought, the omnibus allows for almost equal increases in defense and nondefense spending from last year’s levels, with a $46 billion or 6.7 percent boost for nondefense programs and a $42 billion, 5.6 percent increase in defense accounts. Democrats had sought roughly double that amount for nondefense programs.

Some stuff didn't make it in, like an amendment by Mike Lee (R-Utah) to overturn all the vaccine mandates, and another one from deficit hawk Mike Braun (R-Indiana) to remove all home state earmarks.

The omnibus increases federal spending by about six percent over last year, excluding the emergency aid for Ukraine. There's boosted spending for congressional offices and staff, for the Capitol Police, and for the IRS, that it may go after The Rich Fuckers.

The bill increases funding for election security, federal aid to public schools, and an increase in financial aid for college, yay, with the amount of Pell Grants going up by $400, to $6895 a year.

There's also increased funding for medical research and for public health, although science has not yet found a way to persuade Republicans to believe any of it.

While Congress was at it, it also reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, which had expired in 2018, because it was 2018 and that's how Republicans just were. It includes money for victims of sexual violence and partner abuse, and a shot of funding to help process the national backlog of rape kits.

The omnibus will also increase funding for child nutrition programs, although it won't extend the pandemic waivers that helped schools serve meals year round.

And now it's on to six months of not worrying about government shutdowns, hooray!

[CNN / Roll Call]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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