As Washington D.C. obsesses over impeachment, Congress has found the perfect moment to pass another massive omnibus bill that blows up the deficit, funds special interest groups, and does not secure the border.
While American politics is as polarized as ever, Republicans and Democrats are still able to come together for their annual spending spree. This year’s blockbuster omnibus is comprised of two separate bills that combine to make up over 2200 pages, and $1.4 trillion of spending. Despite the U.S. finding itself $23 trillion in debt, the massive omnibus bill appears set to pass Congress with little resistance. So, why doesn’t anybody care?
Jonathan Bydlak, the founder and president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending told the Daily Caller that he believes people do care, but that budgetary and spending issues don’t inspire the passions that other hot-button issues are. (RELATED: Latest Budget Deal A Tough Pill To Swallow For Conservatives)
“People want the government to spend less, they just don’t get as fired up about it as they do about issues such as trade and immigration,” Bydlak said. “They don’t know what to do about it and they don’t know who to hold responsible for it.”
Critics such as Bydlak insist that the problem with omnibus bills is not just the policy, but the process that leads to it. Throughout the year, Congress passes continuing resolutions to kick the can down the road on a budget deal, and now is set to pass an omnibus filled with policy goodies right before the Christmas holiday.
“We basically continue to pass continuing resolution and continuing resolution and then we decide to pass this massive package when most Americans are focused on other things,” Bydlak said.
Included in the omnibus package are several policies that would normally not be reserved for a spending bill. The omnibus includes a provision to raise the age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21-years-old, several provisions to repeal Obamacare taxes, and a provision re-authorizing the export-import bank. This raises some questions. Why are so many policy initiatives being packed into a last-minute spending bill? Shouldn’t these policies be voted on as their own pieces of legislation?
Bydlak worries that Congress disguising controversial pieces of legislation in year-end spending bills will become more of a trend, and will serve to further water down the responsibilities of the legislative branch.
“Congress is moving towards taking one vote a year,” he said. “Why are these things happening in a year-end spending bill? It makes conceptually no sense.”
The omnibus bill also continues to fund Planned Parenthood, the corporation responsible for over 30% of abortions in the U.S. Trump and Republicans have spent years promising to defund the abortion giant after videos released in 2015 showed Planned Parenthood employees allegedly discussing the sale and distribution of the body parts of dead babies. Still, over four years after the bombshell videos were released, Planned Parenthood still receives over $500 million in funding from the federal government. (RELATED: Trillion Dollar Budget Deal Funds Planned Parenthood Yet Again)
Additionally, the omnibus bill fails to accurately reflect the priorities that the president and Republicans campaigned on. President Trump campaigned on ending frivolous foreign wars, and re-focusing America’s national security priorities on its own border. Yet, this omnibus package allocates roughly $4.2 billion in funding for the Afghanistan Security Forces, while not allocating a dime for the president’s long-promised border wall. The funds will be allocated just over a week after a bombshell report detailed how the U.S. government lied to and misled the American people about the progress of America’s 18-year-long war in Afghanistan. The report doesn’t touch on the incompetence and repeated failure of the Afghanistan Security Forces, which has lost ground to the Taliban in recent years. (RELATED: The Four Ways Washington Can Fix America’s Immigration Crisis)
The irony will cut deeper for Trump supporters once they realize the funds being allocated to the Afghanistan Security Forces are almost as much as the funds the president requested (and failed to get) for his border wall at the beginning of 2019, which led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Republicans led by Texas Rep. Chip Roy were able to secure some funding for border security and immigration enforcement, totaling $1.4 billion. This is the same dollar amount that was allocated to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which saw an increase of $83.3 million its 2020 fiscal budget, according to Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.
This omnibus is hard to differentiate from the much-maligned omnibus of March 2018, when Trump issued a stern warning to Congress. The president promised at the time that he would never sign a similar bill again, and Roy told the Daily Caller Tuesday that he hopes Trump fulfills that promise and vetoes the omnibus bill. (RELATED: The Tide Is Turning Against Democrats On Impeachment)
“I think this is a fundamental question of the future of our nation and that if you don’t start somewhere, you’re never gonna get to the fiscal standard he needed,” Roy said.
However, Roy also admitted that its unlikely the president will veto this bill. Trump did not benefit politically from the last government shutdown, and there certainly is not an appetite for another one, less than a year out from the 2020 elections. Conservatives remain hopeful that Trump will aggressively pursue their priorities if he is re-elected next year, but remain frustrated by the lack of progress in this area.
As the president’s first term enters its final stages, the federal government is still funding wars in Afghanistan and Syria, Planned Parenthood, an unrestrained bureaucracy, and using omnibus bills to cravenly pass unpopular legislation. The Trump administration will continue to argue that its making progress in its war to drain the swamp, but it’s hard to paint this omnibus bill as anything other than another lost battle.