Robert Bluey

Feeling pressure to wrap up work on 11 of the 12 unfinished appropriations bills that fund the federal government, congressional Democrats will push this week to pass a mammoth omnibus spending package just in time for Christmas.

Omnibus bills traditionally are called “Christmas trees,” because lawmakers decorate them with all kinds of expensive “presents” for the folks back home. This year’s omnibus is shaping up the same way, with many lawmakers hoping it will let them bring home a sleigh full of pork with an offering of budget gimmicks and plenty of policy changes to boot. American taxpayers would be wise to tell this Santa to stay away.

But those who prefer fiscal restraint to pork might not even know the omnibus is a raw deal from the way the press is spinning the story. Headlines such as “Dems Cave on Spending” and “Democrats Yield on Spending Impasse” gave the impression last week that President Bush scored a significant victory because Democrats would exceed his total by only $3.7 billion.

Bear in mind that the devil is always in the details. With Democrats planning to release the mammoth bill later today, no one has even seen how they arrived at their total or what policy “riders” -- such as expanding the controversial Davis-Bacon wage mandate -- they have packed into the bill. One thing is for certain: the omnibus will be chock full of tricks, gimmicks and earmarks.

An analysis by the Republican Study Committee revealed that the entire package, combined with other domestic spending enacted earlier this year, adds up to $956 billion -- $23 billion more than Bush requested for all of 2008.

Even without the nitty-gritty details of the omnibus, the Republican Study Committee outlined some basic facts about next year’s spending:

• The $3.7 billion that will be tacked onto the omnibus will be designated for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at