18 Absurdities of the McConnell-Schumer Omnibus Spending Bill
Congressional leaders have dropped 6,825 pages of text for their “omnibus” spending bill, plus explanatory materials that include a list of at least 4,000 earmarks, on the doorstep of every American family.
When announcing the gargantuan spending bill, its authors put “the federal government” before “American families,” and that is exactly what this bill is intended to do.
However, it’s only the beginning of the list of absurdities in this spending bill.
In a stunning betrayal of the American electorate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., worked with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrat leaders to author this example of congressional corruption. (House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., expected to succeed fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi as House speaker Jan. 3, leads GOP opposition to the spending package in that chamber.)
Far from the guise of keeping government’s light on, the foundation of this omnibus spending bill is a vast collection of special-interest handouts and fuel for the fires of inflation and the woke, leftist establishment.
The burdens of this bill, tragically, will stifle our economy and accelerate the dissolution of the fabric of our civil society for many years to come.
Here are 18 of the absurdities of the omnibus, compiled by myself and fellow Heritage Foundation policy experts Doug Badger, Preston Brashers, Lindsey Burke, Matthew Dickerson, David Ditch, Leslie Ford, Rachel Greszler, Edmund Haislmaier, Melanie Israel, Robert Moffit, Lora Ries, Thomas Spoehr, and Katie Tubb. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
1. An Egregious Oversight
In under two weeks, the new GOP majority in the House finally will have the chance to use the power of the purse to rein in the reckless administration of President Joe Biden.
Instead, Republicans seem poised to give up this oversight power without firing even a single shot. This omnibus bill would provide a full year’s worth of funding to the administration—locking in its regulatory regime and capacity to abusively wield the power of the executive branch.
Blocking this $1.85 trillion omnibus, and passing a short-term continuing resolution, would allow the new Congress to set funding levels for the federal government in an appropriate and transparent manner after convening Jan. 3.
This would allow Congress to work in the interest of the American people and stop Biden’s abuse of power.
2. Promoting a Culture of Death
The omnibus monstrosity retains longstanding pro-life and conscience protection riders such as the Hyde Aamendment, which prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from spending tax dollars on elective abortions.
Including these consensus policies that have applied to federal spending bills for decades is a bare-minimum expectation for policymakers to meet. However, the spending bill includes provisions that are cause for concern for pro-life Americans.
In perhaps the clearest example of the frame of mind of the authors, the $575 million in a global health section allocated for “family planning/reproductive health, including in areas where population growth threatens biodiversity or endangered species.” This section quite literally puts plants before people.
This provision portrays humanity as a parasite, as a threat to the plants and animals that the bill’s drafters clearly see as vastly more important than the Americans and their families who Congress is supposed to protect.
As Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., points out, this is a nod to the long-disproven notions of Thomas Malthus. In the 18th century, Malthus argued that population growth would overtake our ability to grow food and other resources, ending in mass starvation.
Of course, history proved Malthus wrong: Mankind’s penchant to innovate and adapt instead has led to vast expansions of our ability to provide resources for our world’s burgeoning population, making each new generation more prosperous than the last.
Dire Malthusian predictions were wrong in the 1700s, and they’re still wrong in the 21st century. In practice, authoritarian responses to “overpopulation” have caused significant human rights abuses. Take China’s devastating one-child (later two-child) policy, for example.
Incredibly, the omnibus gives a wink and a nod to curbing population growth not for the sake of people, but for the sake of plants and animals. Government spending decisions reflect not just priorities, but values. To say the bill’s crafters missed the mark is an understatement.”
Make sure you’re seated before you continue reading through the rest of the absurdities of this omnibus.
3. Costing at Least $1.85 Trillion, Then More Later
The press releases from the House and Senate Appropriations committees and congressional leadership describe the omnibus as costing $1.7 trillion. However, this is only a selective accounting, hiding the total costs to taxpayers.
In reality, the legislation would cost at least $1.85 trillion in fiscal year 2023, which began Oct. 1, once the additional provisions attached to the 12 regular appropriations bills are included.
Waiving enforcement of what is known as Statutory PAYGO would increase outlays by $132 billion in fiscal 2023 relative to what the underlying law prescribes. The supplemental appropriations for Ukraine would add $45 billion and those for natural disasters would cost another $41 billion.
Considering the PAYGO provision, “emergency” funding, increases in baseline budget authority, and expected increases in debt-servicing cost, this bill would increase the 10-year deficit by $2.65 trillion—$20,000 per household—adding to current inflationary pressures.
4. No Lawmaker Has Read This Package
No member of Congress is physically able to read all of this spending package before voting on it.
In addition to the 12 regular appropriations bills, the omnibus bill includes two supplemental spending acts and 21 other separate divisions spanning topics as complex and varied as the Electoral Count Act, public land management, and antitrust enforcement.
As mentioned, the package contains 6,825 pages: 4,155 pages of legislative text plus 2,670 pages of explanatory materials that instruct agencies how to carry out the provisions and include at least 4,000 earmarks to pay for the pet projects of representatives and senators.
All totaled, this material is roughly twice as long as the Bible, and lawmakers planned to vote on it in fewer than four days.
5. Offering an Unprecedented Pork-ibus of Earmarks
Incredibly, the 4,155 pages of the omnibus bill don’t cover everything Congress wants to spend your taxpayer dollars on. The other 2,670 pages of “explanatory statements” contain many key details.
Included in the extra documents are hundreds of pages that detail some 4,000 earmarks, aka pork projects, costing billions of dollars that the federal government doesn’t have—and that will come out of your wallets.
Earmarks were banned for 10 years, but lawmakers from both parties have brought them back. A small sampling of this year’s rancid pork includes:
- $1.5 million to encourage people to eat outdoors in sunny Pasadena, California.
- $1.1 million for a solar array in cloudy Kirkland, Washington.
- $2 million for B360, a group that promotes dirt-bike culture in Baltimore.
- $3 million for the tiny and remote island of St. George, Alaska, for water infrastructure and $2.5 million for harbor improvements, for a total cost of over $82,000 per resident.
- $500,000 for a skate park in Rhode Island.
- $4.8 million for an environmental impact report on the possible expansion of Chicago’s rail transit system. Bureaucracy at work.
- $13 million to expand the airport in the tiny city of Abbeville, Alabama.
- $4 million for “Soy-Enabled Rural Road Reconstruction” in Iowa.
- $2.35 million for the Leahy Center in Vermont, named after Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The member who requested the earmark? Sen. Patrick Leahy.
- Funding for a wide array of woke organizations and left-wing activists.
While hardworking families struggle under the weight of inflation caused by Washington’s reckless spending spree, Congress is going hog-wild with wasteful and inappropriate earmarks.
Calling this shameless would be an understatement.
6. Waiving Statutory PAYGO Enforcement, Increasing Inflationary Spending
In an extraordinary example of fiscal irresponsibility, the omnibus spending bill includes a provision that would waive enforcement of Statutory PAYGO this year and next, resulting in a $132 billion government spending increase in each of the next two years.
The Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, often called PAYGO, is a budget law put into place by President Barack Obama that requires Congress to pay for new deficit spending over time with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Today, Biden’s irresponsible spending spree, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the misleadingly named Inflation Reduction Act, have egregiously violated these rules and would trigger $132 billion in spending cuts in January.
If Biden and Congress didn’t want the reductions specified in Obama’s Statutory PAYGO to take effect, they could have replaced them with other targeted reductions, such as repealing the doubling of the size of the IRS.
Unfortunately, by waiving the budget rules, deficit-financed government spending would be much higher in 2023 and 2024 if this package passes, increasing inflationary pressures.
7. Encouraging Borrowers to Take Advantage of Debt Amnesty
The omnibus includes $2.3 million for Biden’s secretary of education to contact student loan borrowers to let them know they may qualify for cancellation of student loan debt, and to “encourage borrowers to enroll in a qualifying repayment plan.”
8. Intensifying Biden’s Border Crisis
The Biden administration’s open border and NGO processing operations have quickly resulted in America’s worst-ever border crisis.
The omnibus spending bill would prolong this crisis and spend more good money on bad policies. Congress should reject the omnibus, defund these operations, and, at the beginning of the next Congress, pass a border security bill that would truly end the crisis.
The omnibus spending bill would give the Justice Department more money ($234 million) for state and local detention in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program to collect information on aliens and provide it to federal law enforcement. This would occur even though the Biden administration implements a “sanctuary country,” prohibiting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from enforcing immigration laws or cooperating with state and local law enforcement regarding criminal aliens.
The spending bill would give $20 million to the Secretary’s Office at the Department of Homeland Security to transfer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Federal Assistance for the Alternatives to Detention Case Management pilot program.
This program simultaneously allows the left to gut immigration detention while using the facade of (alternatives to) detention without tracking the aliens, while also giving money to their preferred nongovernment organizations, or NGOs, that manage the caseload.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection also would be required to transfer $800 million to FEMA-Federal Assistance. Of that, $785 million would go for emergency food and shelter to “families and individuals encountered by the Department of Homeland Security, CPB’s parent agency.
The omnibus spending bill would require Customs and Border Protection to transport more unaccompanied alien minors, whom the Biden administration continues to entice to cross the border illegally and unaccompanied.
The bill also would provide $4.2 billion to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, for enforcement, detention, and removal operations. These include more transportation of unaccompanied alien minors.
Another $11.2 million would be given to ICE to fund or reimburse other federal agencies for costs associated with the care, maintenance, and repatriation of smuggled aliens unlawfully present in the U.S.
In addition to the DHS secretary’s office and Customs and Border Enforcement’s transfer of money to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to care for illegal aliens, FEMA would directly receive $130 million from Congress for their food and shelter.
The spending bill also would extend a prohibition last year on using funds to construct border fencing in certain areas.
The omnibus would provide the Department of Health and Human Services with $6.4 billion over three years to house, assist, and educate refugees and aliens, especially unaccompanied minors.
The bill would provide an additional $27 million for the next two years if the number of unaccompanied minors exceeds 13,000 in any month. It must be noted that the number of Border Patrol encounters with such minors exceeded 13,000 a month 12 times since Biden took office Jan. 20, 2021.
9. Even More Funding for Leftist Groups Involved in Immigration
The omnibus also would provide significant money to other departments for immigration grant programs. Several of the same NGOs receiving money in the programs outlined above also receive money from these grants.
An immigration industrial complex has developed in this country and abroad and Congress needs to cease feeding it more money, including the proposed:
- $13 million to the Department of Health and Human Services for migrant and seasonal Head Start programs.
- $29 million to the Justice Department for services and activities provided by the Legal Orientation Program for illegal aliens.
- $97.4 million to the Labor Department for migrant and seasonal farmworker programs, including housing.
The bill also would give $25 million to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. The NGOs that regularly receive this grant money are some of the same organizations that receive money in other grant programs cited above.
Congress has rapidly and significantly increased this grant amount. For years, it gave $10 million annually, but doubled it last year to $20 million. Now, Congress proposes to provide $25 million.
10. Rewarding CDC for Incompetence
Since March 2020, Congress repeatedly has increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite the agency’s poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill would reward the CDC for refusing to modernize its data systems—despite a statutory requirement in effect since 2006—by lavishing the agency with more money for data modernization.
The additional money for the CDC would come without holding it accountable for recommendations that schools remain closed for extended periods, that 2-year-olds wear masks, and other policies that harmed children.
The agency also escaped scrutiny for its unlawful decision to impose a moratorium on evictions and a mandate to wear masks on public transportation. Nor has Congress held the CDC accountable for misinformation in several of its published studies.
The fiscal 2019 budget authority for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was $6.5 billion. The omnibus would allocate $9.2 billion for fiscal 2023, an increase of 42% over a period during which the agency’s dysfunction became evident.
These are appropriated amounts and don’t include additional mandatory allocations. Congress may believe that money buys competence, but in the case of the CDC, that faith is misplaced.
11. Providing Self-Defeating Environmental Credits
One part of the omnibus spending bill, Section 201 of Title I, illustrates yet again the incoherence of a too-big government. The bill would create a verification and registration framework managed by the Agriculture Department for voluntary environmental credit markets.
Farmers, ranchers, and owners of private forestland would be able to generate credits to be sold for projects that “prevent, reduce, or mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.”
Given Biden’s liberal use of executive power and his campaign focus on global warming as an existential crisis—requiring an “all of government” response—it is anyone’s guess how long these programs will actually remain voluntary.
Ironically, one activity that would qualify for a credit is “prevention of the conversion of forests, grasslands, and wetlands.” It’s ironic because other federal subsidies and programs—namely the Renewable Fuel Standard and exorbitant biofuel tax credits—incentivize and indeed have caused the conversion of millions of acres into corn and soybean fields. These measures actually may increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The other irony: Expanding these programs likely would increase costs for consumers while having a negligible impact on global temperatures, regardless of one’s opinion of global warming.
When the government is working at cross-purposes with itself, perhaps it’s a sign that government has grown too big.
12. Doubling Down on Distortion of Energy Supply
The Jones Act requires that products shipped between U.S. ports be carried only on the small number of vessels that comply with the law by being U.S.-made, flagged, and crewed.
Because of the Jones Act, it’s often cheaper for states to import petroleum from other countries rather than do business with oil refineries in the U.S. It’s why what little oil the U.S. used to import from Russia was going to Northeastern states and one reason why those same states face real supply insecurity this winter.
And yet, the authors of the omnibus spending bill seem not to care about this very real crisis; shockingly, page 692 would increase barriers to waiving Jones Act restrictions in times of emergency. The bill would prevent waivers to deliver oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve on non-Jones Act ships without first going through yet more paperwork to approve such a waiver by the Homeland Security, Energy, and Transportation departments.
Theoretically, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is meant for situations of severe supply disruptions and emergencies. In such a situation, the last thing victims want to hear is that fuel couldn’t arrive in time because the paperwork wasn’t done yet.
13. Increasing Funding for IRS
The so-called Inflation Reduction Act included $80 billion in new supplemental and mandatory funding for the Internal Revenue Service.
Despite that, the omnibus spending bill would leave unchanged the prior year’s level of spending in the IRS budget for enforcement and other main categories.
This would lock in the looming threat of a doubled IRS army coming for every American family and small business.
14. Providing a Chauffeur for IRS Chief
A provision in the spending bill reads:
Notwithstanding section 1344 of title 31, 17 United States Code, funds appropriated to the Internal Revenue Service in this Act may be used to provide passenger carrier transportation and protection between the Commissioner of Internal Revenue’s residence and place of employment.
15. Raiding Social Security to Fund Woke Union Agenda
The Congressional Budget Office just reported that Social Security will be insolvent by 2033.
Yet this massive spending package would allow money to be diverted from Social Security’s trust fund—and then reimbursed by taxpayers—to cover union expenses.
The trust fund also could be used to pay Social Security Administration employees to work for their union instead of performing the jobs they were hired to do for America’s seniors and retirees.
16. Using Defense Funding for Other Purposes
The defense funding levels of the omnibus generally follow the National Defense Authorization Act and would favorably affect our national defense capabilities, but they do come with the usual waste and inefficiency.
Of the additional $45 billion in aid slated for Ukraine, only 62% of it would go toward military activities. A total of $17 billion would go to economic assistance and efforts to support the Ukrainian government.
The omnibus also would direct $2 billion in defense dollars toward so-called clean energy investments. Billions more would go toward research and woke items unrelated to the military, such as implementation of recommendations from bureaucratic independent review boards.
At a time when rising autocratic powers threaten the interests of the American people, our allies, and the free world, our defense investments must be aimed at bolstering our military capabilities rather than empowering the woke, radical Left or entrenching civilian bureaucracies here and abroad.
17. Throwing Good Money After Bad at NIH, Biden Initiative
The omnibus spending bill would award the National Institutes of Health a 5.6% increase in funding, bringing the total to a whopping $47.5 billion.
And yet, NIH has been uncooperative with Congress on vital issues, including the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic and the troubling revelations about agency leadership’s response to scientific dissent on the issue of comprehensive lockdowns.
The omnibus also would give $1.5 billion to something called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H. This Biden administration initiative is supposed to “support the development of high-impact research to drive biomedical and health breakthroughs.”
The administration’s justification? “Whereas most NIH proposals are ‘curiosity-driven,’ ARPA-H ideas would be largely ‘use-driven’ research—that is, research directed at solving a practical problem.”
If the initiative does indeed offer a more effective and promising approach, then it would make sense to take some of NIH’s current $45 billion in annual funding and redirect it to the new project. Instead, the omnibus would give $2.5 billion more to NIH (bringing its budget to $47.5 billion) and then throw another $1.5 billion at ARPA-H.
Apparently, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats don’t believe their own press releases, since they would increase funding for NIH’s current activities (which they claim are suboptimal) by more than what they would spend on ARPA-H.
18. More Wasteful Food Stamp Funding
In the omnibus spending bill, Congress has punted on real accountability for the food stamp program. The lawmakers would fully fund food stamps, including the Thrifty Food Plan increase, for fiscal 2023.
This comes just after the General Accountability Office released its final report investigating the process by which the Agriculture Department updated the Thrifty Food Plan. As GAO detailed, this update was the first “increase beyond inflation for the first time in 45 years,” resulting in an unprecedented 21% increase in food stamp benefits.
The report illustrates how a lack of documentation and transparency unilaterally increased spending for the food stamp program, also known as SNAP, by $256 billion.
The omnibus would require a report on the extent of skimming from electronic benefit transfers, in which criminals attach to point-of-sale or POS machines and PIN pads to steal from EBT cards. However, even before Congress knows the full extent of this problem, this bill would require states to provide at least two months of “replacement” benefits for recipients who simply report money “stolen” by way of EBT skimming.
Before Congress investigated the effectiveness of “Pandemic EBT,” where the Agriculture Department sent schoolchildren temporary emergency nutrition benefits loaded on EBT cards, lawmakers authorized a permanent program to send summer EBTs to families with children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the school year.
This massive omnibus spending bill would significantly increase the size and scope of the federal government and inflation-driving deficits, at a time when American families are suffering from a high inflation tax and the national debt is reaching record levels.
Passage of this package would advance a radical liberal policy agenda that has been rejected by voters across the country. With the next session of Congress beginning in less than two weeks, lawmakers instead should allow the House’s new Republican majority to write responsible funding bills that cut excessive spending and reflect the priorities and values of the American people.
This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.
As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.