This week, the House and Senate will consider the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (H.R. 244), a 1,665-page omnibus spending package that would fund the federal government through September 30, 2017. The Heritage Foundation explains that while the bill, which was released publicly at 2 AM Monday morning, “does make progress” on some issues, “it woefully fails the test of fiscal responsibility and does not advance important conservative policies.”
Many conservatives went along with a short-term continuing resolution last December based on a promise that the current deadline would be used to advance key policy priorities. Instead, the bill is widely viewed as a rebuke to President Trump’s agenda and conservative priorities.
Overall, the Trump administration requested an additional $30 billion in military, $1.5 billion to continue construction of the southern border wall, and $18 billion in discretionary cuts. The bill provides only $15 billion for defense (of which $2.5 billion is withheld until the administration submits a plan to combat ISIS), provides no funding for the border wall, and actually increases domestic discretionary spending. Through a combination of emergency funding and overseas contingency operations funds, the bill pushes discretionary spending $93 billion above the budget caps.
The Trump administration was rebuked at the program level as well. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science will receive an additional $42 million, whereas the administration requested a $900 million reduction. Funding for Community Development Block Grants was kept level despite a $1.5 billion requested reduction. The list goes on, as CQ Roll Call reported (sub. req’d) earlier this week: “Trump proposed killing off more than a dozen federal programs in his fiscal 2018 budget outline, but it doesn’t appear appropriators are inclined to reduce or eliminate federal funding for any of those line items.”
Liberals celebrated the bill as a victory over President Trump and claimed they successfully blocked “more than 160 Republican poison pill riders.” Heritage notes the omnibus “fails to advance almost any key conservative policies” as “it would continue to provide funding for Planned Parenthood and do nothing to restrict funding to sanctuary cities.”
Along with a lack of conservative policy riders, the bill contains a $1.3 billion bailout for the United Workers of America, a union that represents about 10 percent of all coal production in the U.S. today. Coal miners deserve proper health care and retirement benefits, but it is the job of the union and private companies that made those promises, not taxpayers, to provide those benefits.
H.R. 244 contains a second health care bailout to Puerto Rico. In passing a bill to help Puerto Rico restructure its debts last year, lawmakers promised there would be no cash bailout. Yet, this bill would give the mismanaged and politically corrupt Puerto Rican government $296 million in taxpayer dollars to cover their shortage in Medicaid funds.
Coupled with these two bailouts, the omnibus spending bill also funds liberal priorities and initiatives. H.R. 244 includes millions in increased funding for Department of Energy (DOE) pet projects, national parks, Amtrak, Head Start, college tuition assistance, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and even a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sage grouse conservation project.
When spending bills provide more funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) than border security, as this bill does, it’s fair for conservatives to ask if this resembles more of an Obama administration-era spending bill than a Trump one.
The Heritage Foundation’s Justin Bogie and Rachel Greszler acknowledge the bill “does make progress” on some issues, but they add:
“Unfortunately, the additional $15 billion in defense spending is only half of what President Donald Trump requested earlier this year and is inadequate to meet global threats facing the country.
“The additional $1.5 billion for border security is important in the battle to curb illegal immigration. However, none of these funds can be used for construction of a border wall, one of the president’s top priorities.
“Unfortunately, none of the increases in spending proposed by this bill would be offset. Earlier this year, the president released a ‘skinny budget’ which proposed $18 billion in 2017 cuts, yet none of those cuts made it into the latest budget deal.”
Heritage Action opposes H.R. 244 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.