This week, as Americans are completing their last-minute Christmas shopping, the federal government is countenancing a last-minute spending spree of its own. With jet fumes setting in, Congress will pass the $1.4 trillion appropriations deal to fund the government through October 1, 2020 — preventing the partial government shutdown looming on Friday.
The House voted Tuesday to approve the defense-focused part of the omnibus 280-138 and the non-defense portion of the omnibus 297-120, which amounted to over 2,000 pages and were delivered to the members around 4:30 pm EST yesterday.
The deal includes $738 billion in defense (a $22 billion increase over previous FY2019 levels) and $632 billion in non-defense spending. In total, the bill spends roughly $50 billion more than the previous levels, which busted prior caps enacted by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
The defense portion of the bill provides a 3.1 percent pay raise to servicemembers and continues funding for so-called Overseas Contingency Operations: a technically off-budget fund used for military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Other specific provisions include:
- A 7-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank
- Over $290 million for trade adjustment assistance (TAA), a program long critiqued as ineffective and wasteful;
- An extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which currently owes taxpayers more than $25 billion;
- Increasing the legal tobacco-buying age to 21;
- Appropriating $7.6 billion to fund the 2020 census;
- Nearly $9 billion in funding to the EPA, a $208 million increase;
- Spending $7.5 billion to enforce the First Step Act of 2018;
- Additional disaster aid separate from the $19 billion package passed earlier this year; and
- Two studies on “gun violence” to be funded through the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute for Health, amounting to $25 million.
The bill also includes $65 million for the “restoration of Pacific Salmon populations” and over $101.5 million for the wild horse and burro program.
Meanwhile, $1.375 billion is allocated for border wall funding with allocations for an additional 1,200 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents as well.
President Trump requested $8.6 billion for the border wall.
In terms of healthcare, three Obamacare-supporting taxes are repealed in the bill. These were the so-called “Cadillac Tax” (an excise tax on employer-sponsored health insurance plans), the Health Insurance Tax (sales tax on insurance plans), and the Medical Device Tax (excise tax on the sale of medical devices).
Some conservatives have opposed repealing these taxes while maintaining the spending and regulatory infrastructure in Obamacare. An estimate from healthcare expert Chris Jacobs claims a repeal of these taxes will increase the debt by another $200 billion over the next decade while doing little to alleviate the burden of rising healthcare costs.
The bill also prevents the Trump administration from ending the Obamacare auto-enrollment.
One of the most outspoken congressional members on this issue is freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21).
Roy voted against the measure. He said of the appropriations, “This bill doesn’t provide, it borrows — and it borrows at a time when we cannot afford to borrow any more.”
The national debt is currently over $23 trillion and climbing as federal deficits move above $1 trillion annually.
Roy’s colleague, Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX-06), also voted no and said of the bill(s), “This bill is full of outrageous spending that our nation cannot afford, and with our national debt increasing by more than $100 million per hour, I could not in good conscience vote for this legislation.”
Dallas-area Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX-32), who voted for both the defense and non-defense portions of the omnibus, stated, “I’m proud that we made much-needed investments in election security, Head Start and child care programs, as well as record-level funding for lifesaving medical research at the National Institutes of Health. The bill will also improve public health by raising the smoking age to 21 and making a historic investment in gun violence research.”
He continued, “It is my hope that this bipartisan agreement will foster a productive year ahead for Congress, where we can put aside our differences and do the job we were elected to do.”
In 2018, President Trump vowed, “to never sign another bill like [the 2018 omnibus] again.”
He has not issued a veto threat on this end-of-year spending binge and is expected to sign the new appropriations deal after it passes the Senate later this week.
To avoid a partial government shutdown, the president would need to sign the omnibus into law by Friday.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.