Compromise Covers 12 Appropriation Bills in 4,155 Pages
A bipartisan $1.7 trillion FY 2023 omnibus spending deal has been reached, including a dozen annual appropriations and supplemental aid for Ukraine and victims of natural disasters. Congress is rushing to approve the 4,155-page measure to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday. Senate pages carried the voluminous legislation to the Senate floor in cardboard boxes.
The package provides $858 billion for defense-related spending, up $76 billion or roughly 10 percent from the previous fiscal year. The spending increase includes a 4.6 percent pay raise for military personnel and civilian Pentagon workers. There also will be a 22 percent increase for veteran medical care.
Details of the domestic spending portion of the compromise were less clear, with Republicans and Democrats claiming wins. Republican lawmakers hailed keeping discretionary spending increases to 5.5 percent, below the national inflation rate. Democrats applauded a $68 billion or 9.9 percent increase in domestic spending, with their calculation including veteran-related expenditures, including $5 billion for veteran toxic exposure benefits and $5.1 billion for the Indian Health Service. Congressionally directed spending, known as earmarks, were included in the compromise package. Oregon Capital Chronicle reports the package contains 145 earmarks for Oregon projects, many involving water projects, $5 million for Oregon Food Bank and $6 million for housing and shelter in the Portland area.
Supplemental military and economic aid for Ukraine and natural disaster assistance for victims in Florida and Puerto Rico totaled $85 billion. Lawmakers failed to grant President Biden’s request for $10 billion to deal with a winter surge of COVID and other respiratory diseases.
A lesser known part of the deal is a delay until 2025 in mandatory spending cuts for Medicare and other non-discretionary programs.
A lesser publicized provision of the omnibus compromise is deferring automatic cuts to Medicare and other mandatory spending programs until 2025. The cuts would have been implemented early in 2023 under provisions of the 2010 “pay as you go” law that requires sequestration of tax cuts or additional spending not offset with revenue.
The omnibus spending package will start in the Senate with a procedural vote as early as today. The lame duck Congress approved a continuing resolution that allowed more time this week to agree and pass a compromise measure..
The Inevitable Add-Ons
Few omnibus spending bills move forward in Congress without what are euphemistically called “add-ons”, which boost lawmaker resolve to vote for the spending bill. Some of the add-ons this time are notable:
- Revising the Electoral Voting Act to clarify the Vice President’s role is ministerial and raising the number of House and Senate members needed to object to state-certified ballot results.
- Banning TikTok on government devices.
- Extending expiring Medicare and other health care-related provisions affecting Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
- Phasing out large-scale driftnet fishing that endangers protected marine species and improving disaster relief for fisheries.
- Workplace protections for pregnant employees.
- Extension of some Medicaid benefits.
- Changes to encourage more employee savings for retirement.
There is a rider requested by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to upgrade Federal Trade Commission oversight of the horseracing industry, a major public lands package and language dealing with December 27 deadline for Boeing 737 Max aircraft safety certifications.
Missing from the compromise is a provision to raise the national debt limit, which will likely become a lightning rod next year for partisan differences under split government control.
House Republicans, who will take control of the lower chamber in the new Congress that convenes next month, chose not to participate in the omnibus spending bill negotiations. Some conservative House Republicans chastised McConnell for agreeing to a compromise, which they say will give Democrats another political victory.
Congressional insiders expect majority Democrats and perhaps a few Republicans will ensure approval of the compromise in the House. Nine House Republicans voted for the continuing resolution that allowed final legislative action next week on the omnibus measure. A handful of Democratic progressives who wanted more non-defense and less defense spending may vote against the omnibus spending package.