Freedom First Society

Issue: H.R. 3354, Making appropriations for the Department of the Interior, environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, and for other purposes. As amended before passage, H.R. 3354 became an omnibus for all 12 appropriations bills and retitled as the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act.” Question: On Passage.

Result: Passed in House, 211 to 198, 25 not voting. GOP Scored.

Freedom First Society: With this $1.2 trillion omnibus appropriations package, the House GOP leadership refuses to embrace any strategy for eliminating the deficit and returning the federal government just to its constitutionally authorized functions. By not hanging tough on individual appropriations bills, the House forfeits its power of the purse in favor of upcoming negotiations with Senate liberals to fund the government.

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.)

Bill Summary: This measure was amended before passage to include all 12 appropriations bills and retitled as the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act.”   As reported by The Hill (9-14-17):

“Together, the bills appropriate $621.5 billion for defense spending and $511 billion for nondefense discretionary spending. It also devotes another $87 billion in Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding, which does not count toward budget cuts. Of that, $75 billion went to defense, $12 billion to nondefense.”

Analysis: Following the narrow House passage of this omnibus appropriations bill (with the support of only 1 Democrat), House Speaker Paul Ryan scheduled a press conference with the appropriations committee and subcommittee chairmen.   Ryan gave the GOP credit for passing all 12 appropriations bills much earlier than normal:

“This is a big day. This is a big day in the House of Representatives. Today, the people’s House passed all 12 funding bills on time…. This is the first time the House has done that since 2009…. We’ve done our job for the people, but more importantly we did our job the right way. We did it through regular order.” — Paul Ryan, September 14, 2017

            However, this is not what is normally understood by regular order, nor what Ryan had promised in the past. As The Hill (9-14-17) correctly reports:

“The package included eight new bills, plus four previously passed appropriations bills that advanced through the House in July. Regular order for appropriations typically involved passing each of the bills individually, not in groups of 4 or 8.”

         At the same press conference, House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) added: “This is the next step in the process, but it is not the end. Funding these important federal responsibilities and keeping the government open is our constitutional duty to the people we serve, and I look forward to the final completion of all these critical bills.”

Such political statements cleverly ignore the source of the funds — the struggling American people.   The pronouncements make it sound as though Congress funds these programs out of some mysterious slush fund, from a money tree, or perhaps even from the members’ own pockets.

Merely enabling the government to write bad checks to support the bloated federal monster is not what the American people need from Congress.   What America desperately needs is action to bring government under control, and the House cannot use its power of the purse to do this by passing omnibus spending bills.

After voting this past May against another such omnibus spending measure for the expiring fiscal year (ending September 30, 2017) (see our scorecard for Roll Call 249, H.R. 244 in this, the 115th, Congress), Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) correctly stated:

“House Leadership and the media have led the public to believe that passing one giant omnibus every year, at the last minute, is a legitimate way to fund the government and that anything else will result in a total government shutdown. Both are false. We should write, debate, amend, and pass 12 separate appropriations bills as the law prescribes, so that if any one bill fails to pass, only 1/12th of the Federal government shuts down.”

Here’s What’s Next

The House investment in this omnibus measure was immense. The Appropriations subcommittees each spent hours completing the work on the individual spending bills and 342 amendments were considered on the floor of the House. (In total the House recorded 703 actions on H.R. 3354.)

However, despite this investment, the omnibus bill is likely going nowhere, as it will not withstand a Democratic filibuster, and the Senate is not ready with its versions of the appropriations bills. So in early September both the House and the Senate approved a continuing resolution, signed by President Trump, funding the federal government through December 8th at pretty much FY2017 levels. (See House Roll Call 480 and Senate Vote 192.)

Judging from the recent past, a likely scenario is that Congress will agree on an omnibus spending package with bipartisan support (read another compromise with socialists) before the December 8 deadline. To get Democratic support and prevent sequestration, the package would likely need to include increases to the spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (as updated).

All of this is a consequence of the big-government agenda currently driving the leadership and the majority in Congress.

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