Issue: H.R. 2617, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. (Vehicle: An Act to amend section 1115 of title 31, United States Code, to amend the description of how performance goals are achieved, and for other purposes.) Question: On the Motion (Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment No. 4 with an Amendment No. 6552; A bill to amend section 1115 of title 31, United States Code, to amend the description of how performance goals are achieved, and for other purposes. (3/5 vote required.)
Result: Motion Agreed to in Senate, 68 to 29, 3 not voting. Agreed to next day by the House (Roll Call 549, 12-23-22). Became Public Law 117-328 (signed by the President, 12-29-22). GOP and Democrats scored.
Freedom First Society: A $1.7-trillion spending monstrosity. Republicans were needed for passage in the Senate (3/5 vote required), so we give red “X’s” to the 66 Republicans and Democrats who voted for this measure and blue check marks to the 29 Republican senators who voted against.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
CRS Summary: (Still showing legislative vehicle)
Freedom First Society Analysis: Almost entirely ignored by the media was the contribution of the package to the nation’s more than $31-trillion national debt. Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida) protested the contribution in an op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times:
“America’s national debt is $31 trillion and growing. When are we going to be so fed up that we decide this isn’t sustainable? When we get to $35, $40 or $45 trillion in debt? Too many Democrats and Republicans in Washington are happy to close their eyes, plug their ears and pass another reckless, multi-trillion dollar spending bill we can’t afford.”
And Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) protested the irresponsible Congress on Twitter (12-21-22): “If there are people in Congress who do care, who do really care about those struggling with the burden of inflation, the best way is to quit digging the hole deeper. Quit adding to the debt and begin to balance our budget.”
We suspect that there are few in Congress “who do really care about those struggling with the burden of inflation.” Moreover, the goal shouldn’t be to “quit adding to the debt.” Instead, the debt must be rolled back by slashing unconstitutional spending and departments.
The Establishment’s Hill (12-22-22) reported: “A large group of Senate Republicans ended up voting for the final package, but many of them expressed frustration that they had to vote on all the spending bills balled up in one package with only a couple of days to review the 4,155-page omnibus.
“‘The process is a complete disaster,’ said retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who voted against the legislation.”
The Daily Signal (12-20-22) reported the comments of several who echoed that sentiment. Here are comments from Mike Braun (R-Indiana), who sits on the Senate Committee on Appropriations:
I’m an appropriator, and I can’t think of one conversation that we’ve had jointly among appropriators about what this end product was going to be. So, it’s done basically with leadership and the two lead appropriators, that’d be [Sen. Richard] Shelby and [Sen. Patrick] Leahy, and I think it’s done so purposely so that it’s not a participatory approach.
In a statement emailed to The Daily Signal, Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, complained:
Nearly three months since the end of the fiscal year and Democrats—with full control of the House, Senate, and the White House—have failed to do the bare minimum of funding government. Now, with less than a week until Christmas, Washington Democrats have unveiled a massive $1.82 trillion bill that increases base discretionary spending by 9%, on top of the 7% increase they rammed through last year.
Braun, along with Republican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, held a press conference that afternoon. During the conference, Paul asked:
I brought with me the omni[bus spending bill]—4,155 pages. When was it produced? In the dead of the night. One-thirty in the morning when it was released. Now, people argue that it’s conservatives’ fault. You don’t have the Christmas spirit. Somehow you’re holding up government. Well, whose job is it to produce this?
The people in charge of spending. The people in charge of both of the parties. When did they know that this would be necessary? Well, it’s in the law. Sept. 30. You got nine months, almost 10 months to produce a plan, to have a spending plan.
The Kentucky Republican added:
They weren’t ready on Sept. 30, so they voted themselves 90 more days. They weren’t ready last week either. So they voted themselves another week. And now we have it at 1:30 in the morning this morning. But what’s the clamor? The clamor’s to vote. Vote now. Let’s get it done. Why are you standing in the way of spending?
Well, the real question is this: What is more dangerous? What is more dangerous to the country? $1.1 trillion in new debt. Or as Republican leadership likes to say, ‘Oh, but it’s a win, it’s a big win. We’re getting $45 billion for the military.’ So which is more important? Which threatens the country more? Are we at risk for being invaded by a foreign power if we don’t put $45 billion into the military? Or are we more at risk by adding to a $31 trillion debt?
Paul continued, “I think the greatest risk to our national security is our debt. The process stinks.”
Senator Mike Lee compared the length of the omnibus bill to reading the Bible, noting that it was “4,155 pages long:”
The Bible is a long book and it’s 1,200 pages long. And so going through this, reading through this, which the Bible is actually interesting and full of stories that you can follow, much more interesting than this. I mean, even when you get into the depths of Habakkuk, you’re not dealing with stuff like this.
But you’d have to read, to get through the same amount of text, you’d have to read the Bible three and a half times during that same period and be able to comprehend it. And unlike the Bible, this stuff can’t be really read on its face and understood. It takes cross-referencing to understand all of that.