COMPASS: Senate races to pass an ill-considered omnibus

December 19th, 2022

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. 

It’s officially Christmas time and we’re well into Hanukkah, but here in DC, it’s Washington at its absolute worst. The holiday deadline is a cynical excuse to jam through thousands of pages of legislation covering not only the nation’s annual spending, but billions more for Ukraine, passage of actual bills like the Electoral Count Act, and hundreds more priorities you won’t know anything about (and neither will the members voting on the bill) until years later – because that is the point.

The appropriators have reportedly finished drafting the omnibus which is rumored to be about $1.7 trillion – but the topline number still isn’t being shared. Absent an organized revolt that would slow the process, the Senate is expected to muscle through passage by at least Wednesday or Thursday. And the House will quickly follow.

The absurdity of Republicans supporting this effort cannot be overstated. Republicans will assume the House majority in January. A short-term Continuing Resolution which ends in February or March of next year, would have allowed the new majority to craft their own spending bill with their own policy priorities. Passage of a year-long omnibus not only locks in the spending priorities of congressional Democrats, it cuts the legs out from under the incoming House GOP majority – and not to mention, all the new Members who were just elected.

To add insult to injury, consider that in our forthcoming divided government (Republican House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic White House), the only bills likely to be signed into law are the ones which have to be – that is, spending legislation. That means that every policy fight will be waged on those spending bills. Everything conservatives prioritize from a policy perspective – border enforcement, defanging the FBI and depoliticizing the DOJ, clawing back mis-used COVID funds, breaking up the speech police at DHS – can be impacted as policy riders on spending bills. Every fight for the next two years, in other words, is a spending fight.

By agreeing to a year-long omnibus, however, Senate Republicans are conceding a whole year of being able to impact any change. The notion that a year-long omnibus “will make it easier” for Republicans next year is, frankly, Washington brain rot. Rep. Chip Roy hit on this in a speech on the House floor last week. “The American people need to understand what the People’s House is doing to you today: standing on the steps of the Capitol, sticking their middle finger up at you, would be more honest.” 

Moreover, it’s unprecedented. As Sen. Mike Lee pointed out on Twitter recently, “control of the House of Representatives has shifted from one party to the other only five times since 1954.” And in none of those instances has Congress passed a massive bill binding the incoming new majority.

But in case you were wondering what this is all really about, there are reportedly more than 7,500 earmarks totaling $16 billion in this forthcoming omnibus spending bill. According to Bloomberg, $656 million of those are going to departing Senate Republican Appropriations Committee vice chair Sen. Richard Shelby.

Shelby summed up why he’s putting his foot on the gas on an omnibus, even though it will cut off the power of the incoming House GOP majority: “I’ll be gone, I’ll be cutting the grass and running errands for my wife,” he told Bloomberg. If Congress doesn’t pass his pork-filled omnibus, “They’d have to start all over. I wouldn’t get anything.”

“I wouldn’t get anything.” Merry Christmas from Washington.

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One More Thing…

It’s dark times in Washington, but we are deeply grateful to be able to help empower conservatives in this moment. And we couldn’t do it without all of you! Thank you for continued support this year, and have a wonderful Christmas! The Compass will be back with one final 2022 edition on Wednesday of next week.