Back in March, President Trump nearly vetoed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill promising the American people that he “will never sign another bill like this again.” One of the President’s objections to the omnibus was its lack of conservative policy riders - particularly sufficient funding for border security - combined with increases in the Democrats’ spending priorities. Six months later Republicans and the President find themselves in a similar situation.
This week, the Senate will consider an $855 billion spending package (H.R. 6157) combining Department of Defense & Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations with a continuing resolution funding the rest of the government to December 7th. This so-called “cromnibus” betrays regular order by packaging DOD with L-HHS-Ed and then adding in a last-minute continuing resolution. The cromnibus continues spending levels above the Trump administration’s Budget requests, fails to adequately fund the border wall in advance of the midterm election, and contains no conservative policy riders advocated for by House Republicans in recent months.
Conference reports should reflect a compromise between House and Senate priorities, yet this cromnibus contains no conservative House Republican riders, particularly in L-HHS-Ed appropriations. This includes, for example, the bipartisan Aderholt-Kelly Amendment to protect faith-based adoption agencies against government discrimination, the bipartisan Conscience Protection Act, a prohibition on Planned Parenthood funding, a prohibition on Title X Family Planning program funding, a prohibition on funding to support research using aborted fetal tissue, and a prohibition on funding for the NLRB’s Joint-Employer rule.
The DOD appropriations contained in the cromnibus is good policy, but defense spending should be voted on separately from Democrats spending priorities. The Heritage Foundation scholars Justin Bogie, Frederico Bartels, and Melanie Israel highlight this issue in their report Senate FY 2019 “Minibus” Boosts National Defense, Misses the Mark on Labor, Health, and Education Reform:
While the Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill takes a major step forward by providing a boost to defense spending, it misses the mark in other areas. The bill continues to provide funding to programs that should be cut or eliminated entirely. It also fails on important conservative policy reforms and riders.
The response from House Democrats on the cromnibus has been predictably enthusiastic. Top Democrat on the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, was quoted as saying: “I'm delighted the bill is free from harmful riders.” House Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey stated: “I am also proud that House Democrats stood firm and succeeded in removing Republicans’ unnecessary and deeply partisan riders.”
What the president made clear in March seems to have been lost on many in the Republican conference. Passing appropriations bills through regular order does matter, but the content of those appropriations bills is far more significant. While the process was arguably better this year, the results were not. Democrats continue to hold defense funding hostage to their own domestic spending priorities resulting in conservative policy being shut out of the process.
Speaking directly to the broken appropriations process, Justin Bogie, Senior Policy Analyst in Fiscal Affairs at The Heritage Foundation, writes:
The lack of policy victories is equally troubling. In an effort to move bills in a bipartisan manner the Senate bypassed including policy riders in its bills. However, the House included policy riders relating to important issues such as Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, and the Waters of the United States rule in its bills but they were stripped out during the conferencing process so that the bills would be easier to pass with democratic support. This in spite of that fact that republicans control the executive and legislative branches. And has this year’s process really been that much better? Not enough to justify the cost.
During the August recess, Heritage Action Vice President Jessica Anderson wrote about the importance of Republicans fighting for the policy reforms they campaigned and won on during the appropriations process. She wrote:
At some point during this appropriations process, Republicans in Congress must take a stand with the president and the American people to fight for meaningful reforms — reforms they campaigned and won on. A great place to start is securing the southern border, enforcing U.S. immigration laws, and standing up for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. These are issues supported by the majority of Americans and a significant reason why President Trump is in the White House. Republicans cannot and should not wait to secure the southern border until after the midterm elections. The president has demanded this action be taken now, and Congress should follow through on their own campaign commitments to do so.
Republicans and President Trump should not, and can not, afford to punt on the issues that got them elected before the midterm election. Republicans should reject this cromnibus and fight for a better deal.
Heritage Action Press Release: Cromnibus Betrays Regular Order and Shuts Down Conservative Policy
Daily Signal Op-ed: Passing Bills on Schedule Isn’t Enough. Policy Also Matters.
The Heritage Foundation: Senate FY 2019 “Minibus” Boosts National Defense, Misses the Mark on Labor, Health, and Education Reform
Heritage Action Op-Ed: Appropriations Offer Opportunity to Advance Trump's Agenda