By Stefan M. Kløvning
Washington, Politics – The Omnibus spending bill is a 2,232 pages long bill concerning the spending of about $1.3 trillion signed by President Donald J. Trump on Friday afternoon after being first released on Wednesday. Trump complained to reporters about the lack of time to go through the document, saying ‘you tell me, who can read that quickly.’ He even suggested vetoing the bill the same day he signed the bill, but later asserted that he signed it as a matter of national security, and that he would ‘never sign another bill like this again.’ The Hill reported that this was likely because ‘the vote on these bills is often rushed, passing only 24 or 36 hours after the text is released, and inevitably, Members are faced with a government shutdown if the omnibus doesn’t pass.’ The document can be read in its entirety here.
What the bill included was the result of a quarrel between the Democrats and the Republicans. The bill takes up issues such as federal spending on defense and domestic programs over the next year, promising a $500 billion budget on the issue, but exactly what the money should go to is quite varied throughout the bill. The Republicans wanted mainly to increase funding to the millitary, while the Democrats sought for support to social programs, such as Planned Parenthood, opioid addiction and election security. The GOP leaders have spoken little about what’s in the bill, and rather talked about their political priorities. This is because they want the bill to ‘pass in the dark.’ With little time to analyze the bill, the more likely it is to be passed. Why would they want to do this? Because they want to lose votes from the allegedly ‘far-right’ Freedom Caucus to avoid association, according to Washington Post Journalist Sarah Binder. They wanted to rush the bill through so that their partisan base wouldn’t notice the win for the Democrats and the prevention of several parts of the Trump administration’s agenda.
They have definitely succeeded in losing voters on that side, but it seems to have gone further then they might have expected. President Trump has for instance lost a long-time supporter in the best selling political author Ann Coulter – one of whose books is called ‘In Trump We Trust’ – who is now opining that Trump should be impeached:
She seems to hold this opinion due to the bill restricting funding to Trump’s promised border wall, and also hinders progress on the other promises from his 70-point-list on pro-American immigration reforms.
Another critic is President of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) Dan Stein, who exclaimed that ‘there are no immigration-related provisions in the omnibus that are consistent with what President Trump and congressional Republicans told the American people they would do when they were sent to Washington.’
Senator Rand Paul made a sarcastic remark about the bill on Twitter:
The chairman of the Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows said he had been staying up late at night to try to complete reading the bill, but despite skimming and speed-reading, he didn’t make it past 800 pages. He informs that, ‘I don’t know that anybody could have read more than I read. So to ask for us to vote on a $1.3 trillion bill, having only read one-third of it, is not the process that most of us would support.’
Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker spoke of the bill as the most ‘grotesque’ piece of legislation he can remember to have seen in his two terms in the Senate, asserting that it will add $2 trillion in deficits over the next ten years. He slammed both the 25 Republicans and the 39 Democrats supporting the bill, saying that ‘not only do I question the soul of my own party. I question the soul of the other party.’ He warned that for now, ‘the American people do not care about this issue because we’re living fat and happy today and because the crisis has not yet occurred,’ but as time goes on, ‘the American people are going to be very unhappy with our lack of responsibility.’
The Kansas City Star specifically attacked the Congress on the issue, saying that ‘there are 12 appropriations measures introduced each year. This Congress didn’t pass a single one. Instead, a half-year’s worth of spending is crammed into a secretly-negotiated, 2,200-page monstrosity offered as a take-it-or-leave it deal.’ The newspaper also added some more specific critique by watchdog group Common Cause, which asserted that ‘the combination of tax cuts and spending increases will likely lead to the return of trillion-dollar deficits in the next fiscal year and beyond.’
How will this play out for President Trump and the Republicans in Congress? It seems potent to cause significant damage on their credibility – for reasons argued above – for instance with Trump losing long-time supporters such as Ann Coulter for going against his promises by signing the bill. Some of his supporters may forgive him due to the hurry of the bill, and that it was a difficult situation for the entire Congress, but we shouldn’t be too optimistic about it. The more missteps done, the less support Trump – and the Republicans in general – should expect to get in the mid-term election and when running for President again in 2020.