Omnibus Sails Through the Senate
The allure of recess won out Thursday as senators sped up the timeline and cleared a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill.
Passage completes the process on Capitol Hill of keeping the government funded through the end of the fiscal year at the end of September. Appropriators completed a rather herculean lift of getting all 12 regular appropriation bills included in the package, and then guided the bill through the House and Senate less than 72 hours after revealing it to the public.
Senators voted 72-26 to limit debate on the measure before passing it by the same vote count.
House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers was “almost giddy” after the lopsided House vote with 359 supporters. Rogers’ Senate counterpart and negotiating partner, Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., hoped for a similar result.
“The vote in the House, which I hope will be parallel here in the Senate, shows what working together based on civility, listening to each other, being willing to compromise but not capitulate on principle but negotiating on what are the appropriate fiscal levels, show we can get the job done,” Mikulski said. “In today’s era of shutdowns, slowdown, slam-down politics where negotiating occurs on cable TV rather than in committee rooms, we work together, setting aside partisan differences, working across the aisle and across the Dome, we looked to find how we could put together a bill that both sides of the aisle in both houses could agree upon.”
“Nothing would have been possible without Sen. Mikulski and her determination to get the green light on because people … in my state are tired of yellow and red,” said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La. “They want to work, they want to go to work. they want to build buildings and build roads and get projects under way.”
Landrieu’s the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
“There are things you like and things you don’t like. But, on balance, it represents a middle ground upon which, I believe, we can all comfortably stand,” Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby of Alabama said. “It is certainly far better than the alternative, which would be another confrontation, another government shutdown, and another giant step further away from establishing some sense of regular order.”
The true regular order is the hope and aspiration of many a veteran appropriator for the 2015 fiscal year. Despite the good feelings, there was no shortage of complaints about the closed process, though moving the single catch-all bill was rather inevitable since it is already mid-January — three and a half months late.
Sen. John McCain, a longtime critic of appropriators, appeared on the floor Thursday with a list of projects he derided as pork.
“While I am pleased that this bill will prevent another government shutdown and hopefully signal to the American people that we can actually work together, I will not be voting for this bill due to serious concerns surrounding specific policy riders and spending provisions,” the Arizona Republican said. “I am also seriously concerned about the process whereby we are passing a 1,582 page, $1.012 trillion spending bill that we received at 8 p.m. Monday night — giving us very limited time to time to carefully review or debate and no ability to amend.”
McCain conceded the process is par for the course, however.
McCain also reiterated his criticism of the reported inclusion of language in a classified annex preventing the transfer of CIA drone operations to the Department of Defense.
Appropriators received their top-line spending levels from the broader budget agreement just last month.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke on the floor against costs associated with the health care law ahead of the vote, reaching an agreement on time to speak while allowing the omnibus cloture and passage votes to move forward early Thursday evening. Rather than delaying action going forward, Cruz simply asked for consent to offer two amendments against provisions of the health care law, with objection registered by Mikulski.