What's In The Omnibus Spending Bill? What IS The Omnibus Spending Bill? WHY Is ... You Get It

What's In The Omnibus Spending Bill? What IS The Omnibus Spending Bill? WHY Is ... You Get It
Too much, Magic Bus! Image generated by DreamStudio Lite AI.

Congressional leaders from both parties agreed this week on a "framework" for an omnibus spending bill that will fund the federal government through the rest of fiscal 2023, which began, logically enough, on October 1. If it passes, the bill would ensure that when Republicans take control of the House in January they won't be able to shut down the government until at least the end of September 2023, hooray.

Oh God, yes, it's government shutdown worries season again, because the last omnibus bill, passed in March, funded the government through September 2022 and we've been coasting on spare change from the Fed's couch cushions since then. Yesterday, Congress also quietly passed a temporary bill to fund the government through December 23, giving budget negotiators time to write the full omnibus spending bill before Christmas break. And then everything will be wonderful until House Republicans find some fabulous new way to fuck things up. Trust us, they will!

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All Aboard The $1.5 Trillion Omnibus, Cheerio, Pip-Pip!

As we explained in our servicey guide to What Is Government Funding And What Is This Debt Ceiling, 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, which passed yesterday already, hooray. (Yes, we know it's rather more than the military strictly needs.) 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 (like the bill passed yesterday), which keeps funding at the existing level a week or a few, or an omnibus spending bill that authorizes spending for great big chunks of government that didn't get their own authorizations.

And that, Charlie Brown, is where we are this week and next. The basic framework was agreed to by the co-chairs of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, and by House Appropriations Chair Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), and now various committees need to hammer out the details in some form that'll pass both houses. They say they expect it to work, even!

The negotiators didn't announce what the top-line total of the omnibus package will be, but the agreement does at least set the "base" allocations for the subcommittees that will write the full bill. On top of that, President Joe Biden has asked for another package of military aid for Ukraine, which will need to be decided. The bill may also include "a separate administration request for a $3.5 billion increase over last year to help the Department of Homeland Security handle management of the southern border."

Say, doesn't this make you all hungry for sausage? It's getting made, maybe, although it's possible that Republicans will sabotage any deal on border funding if there's not also a requirement that all undocumented migrants be converted into explosives and dropped on Ukraine. Senate Homeland Security Chair Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) told Roll Call that "There's still a whole bunch of Republicans that are rooting for chaos on the border. [...] We just need to … make sure we have enough money to let the border guards do their job."

Also too, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said Tuesday that the omnibus will include long-anticipated reforms to the Electoral Count Act, aimed at preventing any more shenanigans involving the certification of presidential elections. It would specifically rule out fake (or "alternate," ahem!) slates of electors not chosen by voters, and would specify that the vice president's role in certifying the electoral totals is purely ceremonial, goddamn it. Even Mitch McConnell is on board with that, so it ought to pass.

Needless to say, there's also the chance that Senate Republicans will find just enough members to sink the whole deal, which would then require another continuing resolution putting any omnibus off until January or later, with the added fun of the new House majority deciding a government shutdown would really teach that Joe Biden a lesson. That seems less likely now that the top negotiators have agreed to the framework, but hey, it's Congress, a deadline, and Republicans.

[Roll Call / Government Executive / Politico / CNN / Image generated using DreamStudio Lite AI]

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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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