$1.7T spending bill stuffed with giveaways for favored groups from lobster industry to LGBTQIA+
GOP Rep. Dan Bishop identified $575 million in the bill for "family planning/reproductive health" in areas where population growth "threatens biodiversity."
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The $1.7 trillion, 4,155-page omnibus bill that congressional negotiators have unveiled is stuffed with pork and shouldn't be passed, according to a group of conservative GOP lawmakers and the Heritage Foundation.
Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, are rushing to move the bill to passage before the Christmas break. A floor vote in the Senate could come as soon as Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a group of 13 House GOP members have pledged to block "any legislative priority" of GOP senators who vote for the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill.
North Carolina GOP Rep. Dan Bishop worked with his staff to comb through the massive bill and identified $575 million for "family planning/reproductive health" in areas where population growth "threatens biodiversity." Bishop and his staff also identified nearly $1.5 billion for "membership in global multilateral organizations," such as the United Nations.
The legislation includes $2.3 million for informing the public that President Biden is taking action to cancel up to $20,000 of student loan debt for qualified borrowers. Biden's student loan forgiveness program, which he implemented without congressional authority, is currently on hold pending Supreme Court review.
According to the Heritage Foundation, a slew of earmarks can be found in the bill, including $1.2 million for "LGBTQIA+ Pride Centers," $1.2 million allocated to "services for DACA recipients" at San Diego Community College, $1 million for Zora's House in Ohio, which is defined as a "co-working and community space” for "women and gender-expansive people of color," and $477,000 for "antiracism virtual labs" at the Equity Institute in Rhode Island.
There is also $3.6 million for the Michelle Obama Trail in Georgia, $3 million for the American LGBTQ+ Museum in New York City, $856,000 for the "LGBT Center" in New York, $750,000 for "LGBT and Gender Non-Conforming housing" in Albany, N.Y., and $2 million for the "Great Blacks in Wax" museum in Baltimore.
The bill also includes $750,000 for the TransLatin@ Coalition's "workforce development programs and supportive services" for transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex immigrant women in Los Angeles. The bill boosts funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program by 30% over fiscal year 2022 levels. The House of Representatives allocates itself about $26 million for its "Office of Diversity and Inclusion" in the final text of the bill.
Outgoing Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, a key negotiator of the bill as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is honored in the legislation with the renaming of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act's "Access to Local Foods: Farm to School Program" to the "Access to Local Foods: Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program." He is also honored with the renaming of the "Lake Champlain Basin Program" to the "Patrick Leahy Lake Champlain Basin Program." In addition, the bill provides $30 million for the Patrick Leahy Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program.
The bill honors the outgoing speaker of the House by renaming a federal building in San Francisco the "Speaker Nancy Pelosi Federal Building." The legislation also names a $2 million foreign service grant program the "Nancy Pelosi Fellowship Program."
Language of the Electoral Count Act reform is contained in the full text of the spending bill. The changes, if adopted, would define the vice president's role as ministerial in electoral vote certification.
The bill authorizes a waiver allowing Boeing to miss its Dec. 27 legal deadline for fixing defective 737 Max airliners. Regulations on cosmetics, reforms to horse racing rules, and 401k reform that includes delaying mandatory withdrawals to age 75 are part of the bill too.
Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills praised inclusion of language to protect the Maine lobster industry in the legislation.
"My Administration worked hard with our Congressional Delegation to draft and secure this provision, which will enable our lobster fishery to continue to operate while still complying with NMFS' most recent right whale rule," Mills wrote, referring to the National Marine Fisheries Service, a federal agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
"This is a lifeline for Maine's lobster industry, which is under siege from punitive regulations that will not meaningfully protect the right whale but will threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Maine families and small businesses," she also wrote.
GOP senators, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, are opposing the bill over its level of spending while the national debt climbs to $32 trillion. Some Republicans have also pointed out that the majority party in the lame duck session typically doesn't pass large-scale spending bills before the start of the new Congress.
Paul posted a photo of himself with a large stack of pages from the massive bill questioning whether the clerk and members of Congress would be able to read it before the expected vote on Wednesday. The cart holding the bill contained signs that read, "Danger: $1.7 trillion of hazardous debt."
Indiana GOP Sen. Mike Braun is also voting against the bill.
"Huge spending bills like this one are how we got into trillion dollar deficits, $31 trillion in debt, and an inflation crisis hurting every American family," he said.