Aw Darn, No Government Shutdown For Christmas!
The House has passed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, after the Senate passed its version of the great big government funding bill yesterday. It will keep the federal government funded through most of next year — that is, through the end of September 2023, when the fiscal year ends. They had an incentive to get it done and get out before the winter storm completely buries DC in snow. No, we don't think "Congress buried in snow" would make either a good disaster OR Lifetime Christmas movie, sorry.
The omnibus bill will keep all government agencies funded for the rest of the fiscal year, and also includes two very big priorities for the Biden administration: It includes another $45 billion in aid to Ukraine, as well as reforming the Electoral Count Act. The latter will close the loophole that Donald Trump tried to exploit by ordering Mike Pence to reject electoral votes in four key states.
Unfortunately, Democratic negotiators in the Senate weren't able to round up the 60 votes needed to expand the child tax credit in exchange for a package of business tax goodies Republicans wanted, so the final bill won't include either. Bastards. The one upside there is that Republicans also weren't able to jam through the corporate tax benefits they wanted, so there remains the extremely slim chance for another shot at that deal next year. Realistically, that's probably a non-starter. House Republicans are even less likely than their Senate counterparts to do anything that would help kids get out of poverty, even to reach a deal that would gladden the icy hearts of Republican donors.
Let's Cut Child Poverty Again. Expanding The Child Tax Credit Works!
Can't Fix The Border, Because How Would Republicans Scare All The Old People?
Also too, the whole thing might have been passed and over with Thursday if not for far-right Republican senators led by Mike Lee (R-Utah), who absolutely insisted on a vote on his amendment to keep Donald Trump's pandemic border restriction, Title 42, in place. The negotiations around that vote, and a compromise amendment that would have added the much better Tillis-Sinema immigration reform bill, ate up a bunch of time. Ultimately, neither passed, so Republicans can keep complaining that nobody will fix immigration. Possibly while gazing forlornly at a "Departures" sign at Reagan National that lists nothing but cancellations.
So what's in this sucker? Per the Washington Post, there's about $773 billion for domestic spending on healthcare, labor, environmental, educational, and economic programs, roughly nine percent more than in last year's budget. Recipients of Pell Grants will see a $500 increase in the maximum annual grant. The Department of Homeland Security gets $800 million for better shelter and emergency services, as well as funding to improve refugee processing. There's also a $3.5 billion increase in funding for the Food and Drug Administration, aimed at improving the supply chain for infant formula to prevent another shortage of the stuff. The bill will also include funds to implement the Infrastructure law passed last year, with money to improve water systems, hooray.
Also good, as the Post explainers, are some changes to Medicaid that will help new mothers and kids in poverty:
Starting in April, state officials can begin reevaluating who is still eligible for Medicaid — a priority for Republicans — with some guardrails around the process. But that’s coupled with long-sought Democratic priorities, including allowing states to permanently extend Medicaid coverage to new mothers for 12 months and prohibiting children from losing Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for a continuous 12 months, even if their family’s income fluctuates.
The omnibus also includes a couple of quality-of-life measures that have been a long time coming: One, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, provides workplace protections for pregnant workers, requiring reasonable accommodations and prohibiting discrimination against pregnant workers. Wait, you mean that wasn't already the law? Maybe it was only a labor regulation before; it's Friday before a holiday and I'm not looking it up. Also too, the "PUMP Act," finally requires that employers provide time and a location for breastfeeding workers to pump breast milk. (Presumably it prohibits designating a janitor's closet as a pumping area.) Only five senators voted against it, they are Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, and three other dicks.
Good luck getting out of DC, everybody!
[WaPo / Government Executive / Politico / Image created using DreamStudio Lite AI]
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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.