COMPASS: Thousands and thousands of earmarks

March 27th, 2024

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

On Friday, the House and Senate left town for a two week recess – but not without a little (okay, a lot) of drama.

Both chambers muscled through a $1.2 trillion “minibus” appropriations bill to fund the rest of Fiscal Year 2024, which ends at the end of September. House Speaker Mike Johnson once again used the suspension calendar to move the bill which blocked any amendments from being offered. The bill lost the support of a majority of the Republican majority, passing 286 to 134 with more Democrats voting for it than Republicans. Rep. Chip Roy has a graphic which may explain why. 

It wasn’t just conservatives revolting, however. Just prior to the bill’s consideration, Congressman Robert Aderholt, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education announced that he would be voting against the combined legislation. “This is not the bill that my subcommittee produced and supported. The Senate has taken liberties with their Congressionally Directed Spending requests [earmarks] that would never stand in the House,” Aderholt wrote.

It’s a remarkable statement – and vote – from an appropriations cardinal whose support for this package would be virtually guaranteed in ordinary circumstances. Aderholt went on to couch the substance of his objection in the inclusion of earmarks that fund facilities providing late term abortions and new social services for the millions of migrants crossing into the country illegally. You can read his statement – and the list of earmarks he mentions – here. All told, the bill itself contained over 1,400 earmarks.

Yet despite its obvious flaws, the bill faced the same type of support in the Senate, passing by a vote of 74 to 24 with 25 Republicans voting in support. However, through the efforts of conservative senators, Democrats were forced to go on record opposing efforts to fix the unprecedented crisis at the border and other key issues. Conservative senators – largely opposed by their own leadership, who supported the bill – worked together to secure votes on the following amendments:

  • Sen. Mike Lee: Prohibit the administration from flying illegal immigrants around the country using the CBP One app as their sole form of identification, rejected 45 to 51.
  • Sen. Rand Paul: Cut 5 percent from the bill’s spending, with DOD and money for securing the border exempted, rejected 34 to 63.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz: Prohibit the Biden administration from issuing waivers giving Iran access to billions in escrowed accounts, rejected 51 to 47 on a motion to table, or kill, the amendment.
  • Sen. Tommy Tuberville: Bar federal funding for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education that permit biological males to participate in womens’ and girls’ sports, rejected 51 to 47 on a motion to table, or kill, the amendment.
  • Sen. Ron Johnson: Ban federal funding from going to sanctuary cities, rejected 51 to 47 on a motion to table, or kill, the amendment.
  • Sen. Bill Hagerty: Bar taxpayer money from being used to transport illegal migrants across the United States, rejected 47 to 51.

That these policies, in the end, were not added to the bill and half the Senate Republican conference supported the legislation anyway reflects the deep division within the conference. 

But the fun doesn’t stop. Congress has now passed its FY2024 appropriations bills almost five months into the 2024 fiscal year, which means they’re already behind in considering the appropriations bills for FY2025, which begins October 1. The funding issues aren’t resolved; they’re merely on a temporary hiatus.

In the meantime, reporting suggests Speaker Mike Johnson may move to consider funding for the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine when the House returns. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has already filed a Motion to Vacate the Speaker but has not yet moved to consider it.

The Latest From Around The Conservative Movement

One More Thing…

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in FDA vs Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a case centering on the FDA’s loosening of restrictions around the medical abortion drug mifepristone. Erin Hawley, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, writes more about the case here.