Congress has this fondness for consolidated bills. If Senator Armsmoney (R-US) going to vote for some Democratic priority like expanding school lunches, it’s a lot easier to stomach that vote if the bill also includes funding for the creation of a new FBI Minority Crimes Unit. This is the sausage getting made, the room where it happens, etc. – the deals that are required to push legislation through any legislature. The result are omnibus appropriations bills, like the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
This creates a little game of semantics, for there are already posts like “The COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Would Make Illegal Streaming a Felony,” an article by The Hollywood Reporter that should read “The COVID-19 Bill Is Inside A Large Appropriations Act That Also Includes A Bill That Would Make Illegal Streaming a Felony,” but this is not quite as snappy. Nor does it spark the same kind of vitriol. I mean, check out these:
Okay that last one might be a joke.
The use of omnibus bills is valuable but a situation like this shows how they can also be a public relations nightmare. That $500 million for Israel? It’s part of an ongoing framework that – while it gets and deserves valid criticism – isn’t a freebie thrown in with COVID relief. The same goes for pretty much everything else in here.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act began its life as the United States-Mexico Economic Partnership Act, reflecting another trend that’s normal in Congress but strange to the rest of us. The original bill was gutted and replaced with the text of the Consolidated Appropriations Act because that meant it could skip a couple steps in Congress (since the original bill had been introduced and passed by both houses already).
Its huge size reflects how little Congress has been able to accomplish so far this year. The 5,593-page bill is filled with every priority that couldn’t get approved otherwise, and the addition of the COVID relief is just icing on the cake (icing that accounts for two-thirds of the cake’s total spending, sure, but still just icing). It gives us a glimpse into how Congress can act quickly to move mountains if it wants to.
If it wants to.