Congress, once again, pushed the government funding fight until the last minute. After much debate in the Senate on vaccine mandates, raising the minimum wage, child tax credits, and the massive amount of spending, the best they could do is pass continuing resolutions (CRs) until a large appropriations package could be finalized. The latest CR expires on Friday, and House lawmakers are saying they have come to an agreement.
Rumors of a bipartisan omnibus began earlier this year, but nothing came to fruition until this week. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolds, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle desire to send aid to Ukraine. House Democrats know that wrapping emergency funding into a larger omnibus bill would sway Republicans to vote in favor. The White House asked for $6.4 billion in aid, however, House and Senate leaders are asking for more. The final amount included in the House version of the omnibus is $13.6 billion.
Many lawmakers have expressed their objection to so many issues being in one bill and prefer Ukraine funding be separate. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said:
You don’t have to put the Ukraine aid in an omnibus, either. Omnibus has its own challenges. They’re just trying to get everything in one big bill.
However, other members of Congress, including GOP leadership, tried forging forward with one massive bill.
One of the major roadblocks to passing a spending bill has been the determination of progressive lawmakers to strip out the Hyde amendment which guarantees no taxpayer funding of abortion. But, with House Democrats needing more wins to tout in the upcoming elections, they are willing to keep Hyde in the bill to get funding for their other projects, including COVID relief programs.
If you are wondering why more COVID relief funding is being discussed, we are too. Over the last couple of years, the Trump and Biden administration, Congress, and Federal Reserve have allocated nearly $14 trillion toward the pandemic. However, only $10 trillion has been spent. Instead of recouping the $4 trillion left and reallocating it toward other programs, the White House asked for a whopping $22.5 billion for “immediate needs.” While that statement is vague, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that she is interested in using $5 billion for global vaccination efforts.
Senate Republicans have different thoughts about COVID funding though. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) stated:
I think that we ought to determine — and we’ve asked the administration — how much unspent money is there. There are billions of dollars unspent.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) also indicated that they were interested in lowering the number, but not by much. He said they would likely settle on $15 billion. However, on Wednesday, progressive members threw a fit over the offsets of the COVID funding resulting in House leadership stripping out the entire portion altogether. House Democrats will revisit COVID funding in the upcoming weeks.
While these are the major issues that are front-and-center of the omnibus package, we also must pay attention to what all other funding goes toward. We know that Democrats failed on many of their priorities last year such as election reform, Green New Deal programs, universal pre-K, and amnesty measures. They have snuck many of these issues into the bill including the reauthorization of the sexist Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and $4.2 billion in earmarks. You can read the Republican Study Committee’s analysis here.
Late Wednesday night, the House passed the omnibus in two sections. The defense funding passed 361-69 and the non-defense spending passed 260-171. They also passed a four-day CR to give the Senate time to pass it as well. Eagle Forum is extremely unhappy with the amount of reckless spending that Congress allows to happen. We will keep you updated on the status of the bill as it moves through the Senate.