House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders in Congress are putting the final touches on a massive omnibus spending bill that will fund the federal government until after the presidential election.
Congress must pass the appropriations bill by December 11th, when current funding spending authority expires, to avert a government shutdown.
Although specific details are still unclear, Congressional leaders plan to attach next year’s fiscal budget to the spending plan, precluding any budget showdowns during the elections next year. The price for the stability on the legislative fiscal front is that spending for the next year will increase dramatically.
Congress has already busted through the long-term budget limits to avert a shutdown this summer. The automatic, multi-year, across-the-board budget cuts, called sequestration in Washington, were adopted in 2011, soon after the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.
The sequestration cuts, criticized by most on the left and by several defense-hawks on the right, did bring spending down lower than it would otherwise have been and trimmed the size of annual budget deficits. This summer’s budget deal, negotiated in the final days of Speaker John Boehner’s tenure, reversed the spending cuts in exchange for promised budget savings in the future.
The new spending bill, set to be approved by Congress in the next 10 days, will operate without the sequestration cuts and will carry government spending through the end of next year. The spending bill, then, will also be one of the last implemented by the President Barack Obama’s administration.
Congressional Republicans, to avoid any threat of a shutdown, seem poised to fund Obama’s full agenda for his remaining year in office. This funding currently includes, even, Obama’s funding request to resettle 10,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq within the United States.
“Not only will the President be allowed to bring in the 85,000 refugees he has announced on top of current record immigration levels, but this will include at least 10,000 refugees from Syria who will subsequently be able to bring in their foreign relatives,” Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said in a statement Tuesday. “All refugees are eligible for lifetime government assistance and can draw funds from Social Security and Medicare at Americans’ expense. More than 90% of recent Middle Eastern refugees are on welfare. And they are on a fast-track to becoming voting U.S. citizens.”
Sessions also pointed out that the spending plan being drafted by Republican leadership would also fully fund “sanctuary cities,” where federal immigration laws aren’t enforced, as well as Obama’s executive directives providing amnesty, as well as an expansion of work-related visas.
Conservatives have discussed blocking funding for the resettlement program as part of the omnibus spending package.
Republican leaders seem unlikely to push items that might invite a presidential veto and risk a government shutdown. “I hear a lot of things on the omni on a lot of different aspects,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. “I do not hear people shutting the government down.”
With the threat of a government shutdown presumably off the table, other controversial proposals to block spending as part of the omnibus are increasingly unlikely. In addition to the Syrian refugee resettlement program, the budget will likely continue funding for Planned Parenthood and implementation of ObamaCare.
It looks likely that President Obama will close his presidential term with no major setbacks to the policies he has enacted or authorized through executive orders. His final year in office will be marked by a federal budget that largely funds his administration’s priorities.
The fight over Obama’s legacy will apparently have to wait until he is out of the White House.