Posted: 12:40 am Friday, March 23rd, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
Just over 24 hours after GOP leaders unveiled the details of massive plan to fund the federal government, the House and Senate gave easy bipartisan approval to the $1.3 trillion spending measure, even as members in both parties grumbled about the actions of their leaders, the process, the size of the bill, the amount of money involved, and the specifics.
The final Senate vote – which took place soon after midnight – was 65 to 32 in favor of the over 2,000 page bill, which no lawmaker claimed to have read from start to finish.
“Washington has reached a new low,” complained Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who ridiculed the increase in spending agreed to by both parties.
“This is beyond pathetic. It is irresponsible, and a danger to our Republic,” Perdue added.
“Our congressional budget process is badly broken, and this Omnibus bill is just another symptom of Washington’s sickness,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
As we consider this #Omnibus, remember:
o Fiscal Year ended Sept. 30, 2017, nearly 6 months ago!
o We’ve passed 5 Continuing Resolutions
o National debt is $21 trillion
o 2018 deficit could top $1 trillion
o This bill is $1.3 trillion & 2,300 pages
This is no way to govern…
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) March 23, 2018
Among the many items in the final bill:
+ A big boost in defense spending, giving the Pentagon $700 billion in 2018, an increase of over $60 billion.
+ A substantial increase in domestic spending, highlighted by money for infrastructure, medical research and more.
+ Two bills pressed in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting – the “Fix NICS” bill that would funnel more information into the instant background check system for gun buyers, and the “STOP School Violence Act,” which would help schools better recognize possible threats of violence in the future.
A rush to a final vote in the Senate was first delayed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who spent hours going through the bill, tweeting out what he found – but after about 600 of the 2,232 pages, the Kentucky Republican called it quits.
“I will vote no because it spends too much and there’s just too little time to read the bill and let everyone know what’s actually in it,” Paul tweeted.
“Every Republican would vote against this disgusting pork bill if a Democrat were President,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). “This spending kegger is a wildly irresponsible use of the taxpayers’ money.”
⚡️ “Tweeting the 2018 Omnibus”https://t.co/qgTCivVbrX
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018
At the White House, officials acknowledged that if the GOP had 60 votes in the Senate to stop a filibuster, they would have designed a much different bill to the fund the operations of the federal government through the end of September.
But they still argued the measure funded a number of the President’s priorities.
“It funds national defense,” said White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney. “It funds opioids, it funds school safety.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 22, 2018
Earlier on Thursday, the House approved the bill on a vote of 256-167, as the two parties switched arguments from several years ago – when it was Republicans complaining about Democrats bringing a big bill to the floor with little time for review.
This time, it was Democrats echoing the Tea Party line of, “Read the bill!”
Today, I asked @HouseGOP Members to join me on the Floor if they have read the 2,200+ page funding bill that they released last night & we are about to vote on. Not one of them joined me. #ReadTheBill pic.twitter.com/n2xTXZFWHn
— Steny Hoyer (@WhipHoyer) March 22, 2018
When the bill reached the Senate, Senators were ready to quickly approve the plan, and head out of town on a two-week break for Easter.
But the fine print caused some troubles, as Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), reportedly objected to a provision put in the bill that would rename a park in his state after a former Governor, Cecil Andrus, described in home state press reports as a past rival.
In the hallways off the Senate floor, Risch was not interested in discussing the Idaho dust up with reporters.
Risch didn't want to talk to reporters. We asked multiple questions. Finally he stopped, looked at us and said "no."
“What part of no don’t you understand? Do I have a problem with my English? I don’t have any comment on this.” Risch said.
— Lauren Fox (@FoxReports) March 23, 2018
The hours of waiting, which included a procedural vote that called on the Sergeant At Arms to request the presence of absent Senators – left one short-timer aggravated.
“This is juvenile,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who is not running for re-election this year.
“This is a ridiculous process that we go through where people extort us, until we get so tired, that we are willing to do whatever it is that they wish for us to do,” said Corker just before the clock struck midnight.
Corker said it would have been better to come back at 8 am and vote, but he backed off that threat, and allowed Senators to finish work on the Omnibus, which funds the government only through September 30.