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Monday, January 30, 2023
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House Conservatives Warn Lawmakers to Reject $1.7T Omnibus Spending Bill

'Finalizing the omnibus is critical, absolutely critical for supporting our friends in Ukraine...'

(Headline USA) A coalition of 13 conservative members of Congress warned fellow GOP lawmakers that supporting Democrats’ massive omnibus spending spree to fund the government may result in their future legislative proposals getting stonewalled.

The threat came after congressional leaders unveiled a massive, government-wide $1.7 trillion spending package early Tuesday that includes another large round of aid to Ukraine.

The bill, which runs for 4,155 pages, includes about $772.5 billion for non-defense discretionary programs and $858 billion in defense spending and would last through the end of the fiscal year in September.

By rejecting the bill, GOP legislators would risk a brief shutdown but would have the chance to pass their own fiscally responsible package early in the next term.

The new pork-fest comes in spite of a tenuous economic situation that has seen inflation skyrocket into near double digits after hovering around 2% during the Trump presidency.

Efforts by the Federal Reserve to rein it in have led to interest rates not seen since the George W. Bush administration, putting the possibility of a major recession on the near horizon.

Although government spending and minting of new money is the prime cause of an inflationary economy, the new budget will add even more now to the national debt, which currently sits at around $32.4 trillion.

The soon-to-be near $5 trillion in debt that President Joe Biden has amassed in only two years is roughly the same as the entire national debt through the mid-1990s, when Bill Clinton was president.

Biden’s fiscal spending record is on pace to eclipse that of former President Donald Trump, whose spending averaged roughly $2 trillion per year during his first presidential term, although roughly half of the $8 trillion came as the result of bipartisan pandemic spending in his final year as president.

For the current ominbus spree, Democrats and their RINO allies worked to stuff in as many priorities as they could into the sprawling package and are racing to complete passage before a midnight Friday deadline or face the prospect of a partial government shutdown going into the Christmas holiday.

Lawmakers leading the negotiations released the details of the bill shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday.

The spending package includes about $45 billion in additional emergency assistance to Ukraine to support its ongoing war with Russia, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

It would be the biggest American infusion of assistance yet to Ukraine, above even President Joe Biden’s $37 billion emergency request, and ensure that funding flows to the war effort for months to come.

The U.S. has provided about $68 billion to Ukraine in previous rounds of military, economic and humanitarian assistance, although skeptics have suggested it may be a massive money-laundering operation to redirect funding back to Democrats and the private investments of the Biden family, among others.

“Finalizing the omnibus is critical, absolutely critical for supporting our friends in Ukraine,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The legislation also includes revisions to federal election law via the Electoral Count Act,  which aims to close the constitutional loopholes that allowed Trump to wage a political challenge against the certification of the 2020 election.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has warned that if the fiscal year 2023 spending measure fails to gain bipartisan support this week, he would seek another short-term patch into next year, guaranteeing that the new Republican majority in the House would get to shape the package.

Leahy argued against that approach in releasing the bill saying, “the choice is clear. We can either do our jobs and fund the government, or we can abandon our responsibilities without a real path forward.”

Despite the warning, McConnell framed the longer-term spending bill as a victory for the GOP, even as many will undoubtedly vote against it.

Although many in the GOP are skeptical about America’s support for the corrupt Ukrainian government after reports that the State Department cannot account for how tens of billions of dollars have been spent there, McConnell claimed Republicans were successful in increasing defense spending far beyond Biden’s request while scaling back some of the increase Biden wanted for domestic spending.

“The Congress is rejecting the Biden administration’s vision and doing the exact opposite,” McConnell said.

The bill’s unveiling was delayed by haggling over language related to location of the FBI’s future headquarters. Maryland lawmakers have argued that ensuring predominately black communities get their fair share of federal investments should be more thoroughly considered as part of the selection process. They are advocating for building the headquarters at one of two sites in Maryland’s Prince George’s County.

In September, the General Services Administration issued a site selection plan based on five criteria, the most heavily weighted at 35% was proximity to the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia. Advancing equity was weighted at 15%.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said at a recent forum that a Biden executive order early in his administration emphasized that the issue of racial equity is not just an issue for any one department, but it has to be the business of the whole government.

“I would submit that the GSA and the FBI clearly haven’t gotten the message, given the low weight they’ve given to this factor,” Van Hollen said.

A Senate Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations said Schumer worked to incorporate language in the spending bill ensuring the GSA administrator conduct “separate and detailed consultations” with lawmakers representing the Maryland and Virginia sites to get their perspectives.

Lawmakers are nearing completion of the 2023 spending package nearly three months late. It was supposed to be finished by last Oct. 1, when the government’s fiscal year began.

The last time Congress enacted all its spending bills by then was in 1996, when the Senate finished its work on Sept. 30, the very last day of the budget year. Then-President Bill Clinton signed it that same day.

The Senate is expected to vote on the spending bill first where support from at least 10 Republican senators will be needed to pass it before the measure is considered by the House. As has been the case with recent catchall spending bills, lawmakers voiced concerns about passing legislation containing thousands of pages on short notice.

“We still haven’t seen a single page of the Pelosi-Schumer spending bill, and they’re expecting us to pass it by the end of this week,” tweeted Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. “It’s insane.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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