Congress debates spending bill with 605 pages of earmarks before Friday shutdown deadline

Congress passed a bill last week to extend the appropriations deadlines to March 8 and March 22. The latest spending bill includes a $850,000 earmark for a bus stop and $1.8 million to expand an LGBTQ community center.
Capitol Hill

The U.S. Congress is debating a spending package ahead of a government shutdown deadline on Friday, the day after President Biden's scheduled "State of the Union" address.

Congress passed a bill last week to extend the first appropriations deadline to Friday, March 8 and the second to Friday, March 22.

On Sunday, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., released six fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills. The committee chairs said in a press release that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 "funds the six bills at levels consistent with the bipartisan budget agreement and reaffirmed in the topline agreement struck by Leader Schumer and Speaker Johnson in January of this year."

According to the House and Senate Appropriations committees, "the legislation is expected to be considered first in the House and then later this week by the Senate." In addition, the committees announced that the "remaining six appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024 are expected to be released in the coming days and be voted on ahead of their expiration on March 22."

The legislation contains a lengthy list of earmarks from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said the first six appropriations bills contain a whopping 605 pages of earmarks. 

"BREAKING:@SenSchumer just released the text for the first six spending bills we're supposed to vote on this week that includes 605 PAGES OF EARMARKS. One example? Schumer's $1 MILLION ask to build a new environmental justice center in NYC," Scott wrote.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said that earmarks "corrupt government" and they "turn Republicans Democrat." "No Republican should support them. No Republican should vote for this bill," Lee wrote on his X account.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, predicted that there won't be any spending reductions in the rest of the current fiscal year.

"What we've done is just for the sake of time traded what we call an omnibus, one of these huge spending bills that everything's in there, right, they throw everything in there, there's not the individual bills with individual votes, we usually get that right before December, right before Christmas in December, that's going to be broken into two smaller bills in March but it'll have the same effect," he said. "There will be no reductions in spending and there will be an increase in spending."

Conservatives in the House have pushed for House Republican leadership to include provisions of the Secure the Border Act, H.R. 2, into the spending package but Perry said it likely won't happen.

"None of those policies are going to survive this negotiation," Perry told Just the News. "Our bills are not the ones that Senate's taking up."

David Ditch, a policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, said the 1,050 page spending package contains another 1,281 pages of "explanatory statements" because "there are long lists of pork projects and niche special interest carve-outs."

There are 30 pages of earmarks in the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill alone. Meanwhile, the national debt is reportedly climbing by $1 trillion every 100 days. 

Some members of Congress, such as Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Ill., filed applications from constituents on local or state projects that they would like to secure federal funding to complete.  Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan, D-Va., boasted on X that she successfully added 15 earmarks to the 2024 appropriations bills.

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., noted a $850,000 earmark for a bus stop and $1.8 million to expand an LGBTQ community center. "This is an embarrassment for the American people," Norman said Monday on the "Just the News, No Noise" TV program. "I don't see any spending cuts."