Senate Progress on Spending Bills Slows Amid GOP Objections

Republicans called the move to combine the bills a manipulation tactic.

The advancement of three fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills slowed in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 14 amid the objections of some Republicans to combining them into a single package.

The deceleration followed a motion for unanimous consent to tie spending bills concerning the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration and the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development to appropriations for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The motion was blocked by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in a move that visibly flustered Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine).

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“The Senator from Wisconsin has repeatedly said—and I agree with him—that we should not end up with an omnibus bill—a 4,000-page bill—at the end of the year, with little consideration and having been largely drafted by a small group of people,” Ms. Collins said on the Senate floor.

“So why is the Senator from Wisconsin objecting to proceeding to three appropriations bills that were reported unanimously—unanimously, each one of them—by the Senate Appropriations Committee after a great deal of work?” she asked.

Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) also expressed her disapproval, holding that combining the bills would mark a return to “regular order” in the appropriations process.

Republicans, on the other hand, have charged the move is simply a manipulation tactic.

‘Manipulation Formula’

One of those Republicans is Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who came to Mr. Johnson’s defense. In a series of X posts, he explained that the Wisconsin senator and other Republicans were concerned that the three-bill “minibus” would be used to force lawmakers into passing legislation they disagreed with.

“The law firm of Schumer, McConnell, McCarthy, & Jeffries (‘The Firm’) has learned that members of Congress (and voters) don’t like ‘omnibus’ spending bills—that is, legislative proposals that fund all of the functions of the federal government in a single, consolidated bill,” Mr. Lee wrote.

Omnibus bills, he noted, are often drafted in secret with little input from other legislators before they are brought up for a vote—a fact that has made them increasingly unpopular with the American public. And a minibus, though smaller, could present the same problem, he said.

“The absence of a single omnibus bill, and the use of two or more ‘minibus’ bills instead of a single omnibus, doesn’t mean the process will be fair or materially different than that associated with an omnibus,” he stressed, adding that it was “very likely” that Congress would still end up with a single omnibus bill.

The deadline for Congress to pass all 12 appropriations bills is Sept. 30, the final day of the current fiscal year. If lawmakers fail in that duty, the federal government will cease to perform all nonessential operations on Oct. 1.

Thus far, the only bill to have passed either chamber is the House’s version of the Military Construction–VA bill. And as the GOP controls the House, Mr. Lee said rank-and-file Republicans in both chambers would prefer that the other two bills in the proposed minibus be addressed there first “to protect Republican priorities.”

The senator also pushed back against claims that Mr. Johnson’s objection was preventing a return to the regular order of the appropriations process.

“Here’s the irony: what The Firm was proposing was NOT ‘regular order.’ Far from it, it was a slightly different flavor of The Firm’s tried-and-true manipulation formula,” he wrote, adding that Mr. Johnson “deserves credit” for allowing the spending bills to be considered separately.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) charged that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) never truly meant for the appropriations bills to be considered under regular order.

“There is no time for us to finish this process before the end of the fiscal year, which is actually part of the majority leader’s plan,” Mr. Cornyn contended on the Senate floor.

“He never intended to have a normal process by which the appropriations bills would be considered because what we call the regular order around here means you take them up one at a time, all 12,” he said. “It is a transparent, open process where the American people can see it, where every senator—all 100 senators—gets to participate in crafting those bills.”

Under the rules of the Senate, unanimous consent is required for appropriations bills to be bundled together. Noting that Mr. Schumer was aware of this rule, Mr. Cornyn asserted that the majority leader had deliberately “sabotaged” the appropriations process by delaying consideration of the bills.

“He knows we can’t move 12 appropriations bills through the Senate and the House in the next 16 days, so this exercise will certainly end with another spending bill that is crafted at the last minute and jammed through both Houses,” he said. “If this is the gold standard for anything, it is a gold standard for political theater. This is drama scripted by the majority leader.”

Mr. Johnson’s objection followed an earlier 91-7 vote to proceed to consider the Military Construction–VA bill, on which he voted in the affirmative.

The bill provides $19.1 billion in defense spending for military construction and family housing, $121 billion for veterans’ health care, and $3.9 billion for veterans’ benefits, among other appropriations.

The Senate is scheduled to resume consideration of the measure on Sept. 18.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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