What's in the $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill — and What Got Cut

What's in the $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill — and What Got Cut

By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Good evening. We’ve got action on the massive omnibus spending bill. Here’s an overview.

Congress Gets Moving on $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill

Just before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, congressional appropriators released the text of a massive, $1.65 trillion spending bill for the fiscal year that runs through September. Now lawmakers are racing to pass the 4,155-page package by Friday night, when current federal funding expires. With a powerful winter storm set to expected to hit the Midwest and East Coast later this week, potentially jeopardizing holiday travel plans ahead of the Christmas holiday on Sunday, the House and Senate have some added incentive to move quickly.

“Nobody wants a shutdown, nobody benefits from a shutdown, so I hope nobody will stand in the way of funding the government ASAP,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.

The package will start in the Senate, where it will require the agreement of all 100 senators to speed through to a vote and the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass. Conservatives who oppose the legislation are looking to secure amendment votes but indicated Tuesday that they won’t try to hold the bill up otherwise.

What’s in the bill: The omnibus bill includes the 12 annual bills setting spending levels for every federal agency as well as additional aid for Ukraine — and since it is the last piece of must-pass legislation for this year, and this Congress, it also includes some provisions unrelated to the federal budget.

Some key points:

* $858 billion for defense, an increase of $76 billion, or nearly 10%, over 2022 levels. Military servicemembers and civilian employees of the Pentagon would get 4.6% raises.

* A smaller increase for non-defense spending. Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, put non-defense discretionary total at $772.5 billion, an increase of about 5.5%, less than the 7.1% inflation rate.

* About $85 billion in supplemental funding, including $44.9 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine and NATO allies, more than the White House had requested, and $40.6 billion in disaster aid. “That total figure roughly matches President Joe Biden's supplemental requests,” Roll Call notes, “except lawmakers diverted $10 billion he sought for pandemic aid to beef up Ukraine and disaster relief, depriving the administration of new funds to deal with a winter COVID-19 surge.”

* Other items hitching a ride in the spending package include a reform of the 1887 Electoral Count Act to clarify the election certification process in response to the January 6 attack on the Capitol; bipartisan legislation to promote retirement savings; a ban on the use of TikTok on government devices; and extensions of certain health-care provisions.

What’s not in the package: Lawmakers had a long list of issues they wanted to address in the omnibus bill, but many fell by the wayside during the compressed negotiation period. Perhaps most notably, Democrats wanted to revive a more generous child tax credit that was in place during the pandemic but were unable to make a deal with Republicans interested in extending a set of business tax breaks that are set to expire, including a bonus tax credit for research and development.

Other policy riders that failed to make it into the omnibus include legislation that would raise the debt ceiling ahead of a potential showdown on the issue next year; a bill that would help refugees from Afghanistan settle in the U.S.; an easing of restrictions for banks getting involved in the marijuana business; a pathway to citizenship for the “Dreamers” who arrived in the U.S. as children; and more federal funding for the government response to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases.

Additionally, in what could be a sign of things to come in the Republican-controlled House starting in January, there is no additional annual funding for the IRS in the omnibus. Instead, the IRS will get a $275 million cut in 2023, with a total allocation of about $12.3 billion. That’s part of a Republican effort to undercut an $80 billion infusion for the agency over 10 years enacted by Democrats as part of their Inflation Reduction Act. The reduction in annual funding for the IRS could force the agency to use its funding boost to cover annual costs.

Republicans and Democrats each claim some wins: The sprawling package has something for everyone to tout. Republicans had sought to draw a line on non-defense spending, avoiding the “parity” in defense and non-defense increases that has been standard in recent years. They succeeded at that, with Senate Republicans claiming that the increase for non-defense was 5.5%, a lower rate than inflation, and even arguing that amounted to a cut — and a GOP win.

On the other hand, House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sliced the numbers a bit differently and said that the 12 regular appropriations bills include $800 billion in non-defense funding, which she touted as an increase of $68 billion, or 9.3%, over last year. “This is the highest level for non-defense funding ever and a larger increase in both dollar and percentage than fiscal year 2022,” a statement released by her office said.

On top of that, Punchbowl News notes, “there’s more than $5 billion worth of Democratic earmarks for 3,200-plus projects. That’s funding that House and Senate Democrats can brag about back home.” Republicans, meanwhile, secured about $4 billion in earmarks.

GOP lawmakers also touted “retaining the so-called Hyde amendment language, which blocks federal funding for abortion in most cases; rejecting ‘radical environmental and climate policies’ and flat-funding the IRS,” says Roll Call, which adds that Democrats cheered the first funding increase for the National Labor Relations Board in more than 10 years, increased clean energy funding and more money for affordable housing.

Both sides also highlighted the roughly $119 billion in the bill for Veterans Affairs medical care, a 22% increase. A document released by the Senate Appropriations Committee Republicans emphasized that existing veterans medical expenses were not shifted out of the discretionary budget, as Democrats had wanted in order to make more room for non-defense spending.

The bill includes some significant health care changes: The package would delay some automatic cuts to Medicare provider payments and other programs. It would also end the pandemic-era policy that bars states from culling their Medicaid rolls. “In a win for Republicans, the package allows states to start reevaluating who is still eligible for the program beginning in April,” The Washington Post reports. “It also includes some long-sought Democratic priorities, such as allowing states to permanently extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers for 12 months and barring children from getting kicked off their Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for a continuous 12 months, even if a family’s income fluctuates.”

The bottom line: The omnibus appears likely to pass in time to avoid a government shutdown and let lawmakers head home for the holidays. We’ll have plenty more on the package in the coming days.

Huge Spending Package Again Exposes Huge GOP Divides

The omnibus bill introduced Tuesday represents the final piece of two top appropriators’ legacies. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), the top lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee, are retiring after decades in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the massive bill is a fitting tribute to both: “If the omnibus goes down as their final legislative contribution as senators, then I say, ‘Bravo, well done, thank you.’”

Not everyone shares that sentiment, though. Many Republicans have blasted the process — and the result.

A handful of conservative senators held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss their objections. “We deserve proper consideration and the chance to read, debate and amend - not a backroom deal. Opposing this isn’t radical: running our government like this is what’s radical,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) tweeted. “The Bible is about 1200 pages long. Could you read it 3 times before Friday?”

A day earlier, 13 House Republicans said they would retaliate against any senators who vote for the bill by opposing their legislative priorities. “We will oppose any rule, any consent request, suspension voice vote, or roll call vote of any such Senate bill, and will otherwise do anything in our power to thwart even the smallest legislative or policy efforts of those senators,” they said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is bidding to become the next speaker and had sought to delay to spending bill until after Republicans took control of the House, endorsed the letter. “Agreed,” he wrote on Twitter. “Except no need to whip—when I’m Speaker, their bills will be dead on arrival in the House if this nearly $2T monstrosity is allowed to move forward over our objections and the will of the American people.”

Some Senate Republicans said their House colleagues’ threat was a bad sign for 2023, according to The Hill. “If you just think about what they’re suggesting, it flies in the face of maturity and the ability to lead,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), who opposes the spending bill and said he hopes McCarthy becomes speaker.

And Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said: “That doesn’t sound like a recipe for working together in the best interest of the country, so I think this is just words spoken during the heat of passion.”

Number of the Day: 379 Million

There are plenty of numbers to digest in the huge spending bill, but this unrelated figure jumped out at us: The Drug Enforcement Administration announced Tuesday that it seized more than 379 million doses of the drug fentanyl in 2022 — “enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill every American,” it said.

Send your feedback to yrosenberg@thefiscaltimes.com. And please encourage your friends to sign up here for their own copy of this newsletter.


Views and Analysis