Congress to Vote on 2,232-Page Spending Bill Before Ink Is Dry

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell don’t think their troops need time to read, much less ponder, the giant funding bill. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

So the long-awaited Omnibus Appropriations Bill to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal year 2018 finally saw the light of day at about 8 p.m. Wednesday. It came in at 2,232 pages, an impressive boost from the 1,665 pages of last year’s equivalent legislation.

You’d think the 72 hours required in House rules (a requirement, by the way, that Republicans imposed by way of implementing a 2010 campaign promise) for time to consider legislation before a vote on it would be a laughably short allowance for a behemoth like this one. But in fact, the House is planning to waive the 72-hour rule and vote on the omnibus this very day. The reason is obvious, if pathetic: negotiators didn’t reach a deal until the Friday night expiration of the previous stopgap spending bill was imminent. So the House needs to clear the monster bill today and the Senate tomorrow, lest a fifth stopgap spending measure — or a brief government shutdown, the third of the fiscal year — becomes a necessity.

There are two known threats to this scenario: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is planning to oppose the rule for consideration of the omnibus to protest the failure to include protections for Dreamers. If enough House conservatives who intend to vote against the omnibus join House Democrats in this protest, they could slow down the process for a bit (Pelosi actually supports ultimate passage of the bill; this is all just a messaging gesture).

Once the bill reaches the Senate, Rand Paul could well filibuster it (as he briefly did with the last stopgap spending bill) as his own gesture against irregular budgeting practices and overall spending. If Paul does so, he will eventually be silenced by his annoyed Senate colleagues, but that takes time. And he might even interfere with another stopgap bill, shutting down the government for a day or three.

In the end, all of these obstacles to enactment of this mammoth pig in a poke are much like the president’s threats yesterday to hold his breath until he is blue and/or veto the omnibus out of pique that he didn’t get the border wall money he wanted. They won’t derail the train heading down the tracks, but can create some havoc, some rebooked congressional travel plans, some momentary fear among federal employees, and quite a bit of well-justified embarrassment that more than halfway through the fiscal year the Congress run by those fine orderly white men of the Grand Old Party can’t get their act together to perform the most basic functions in a timely manner.

Come October we will almost certainly see more stopgap spending legislation to get the government past Election Day, and then the game will begin all over again, though quite possibly with the House under new management.

Congress to Vote on 2,232-Page Omnibus Before Ink Is Dry