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Tipsheet

More Dems in Disarray? Vote on Spending Bill Passes Only After Delay and as Fights Arise Over COVID Funding

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Update:

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill on Wednesday. As Aris Folley and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill:

The last-minute revolt over the COVID-19 funding from Democrats angered over a GOP-demanded offset upended a delicately negotiated package between congressional leaders of both parties. 

As part of those bipartisan negotiations, the House passage of the omnibus package, which funds the federal government through September, was split in two votes so that lawmakers could register specific support for the defense spending portions.  

The House first voted 361-69 to back funding for the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security and other national security priorities and then 260-171, with one Democrat voting "present," to adopt the provisions largely related to domestic programs.

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Headlines throughout Wednesday over the bill largely focused on infighting between Democrats over COVID relief funding and that the vote had been delayed from when it was supposed to take place earlier in the day.

Original:

While the omnibus released on Wednesday is certainly full of problematic policies, it's also a stunning reveal of Democrats in disarray. In addition to the omnibus being released on Wednesday, so was news about changes and ultimate delays. This included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) acknowledging she had to remove COVID relief funding from the omnibus spending bill.

While the "Dear Colleague" letter from Pelosi blamed Republican members early on, she went on to acknowledge Democrats had taken issue with the proposal as well. As her letter from March 9 read in part:

Republicans resisted this deeply needed funding, demanding that every cent requested by the Administration be offset, including through state and local funds scheduled to be released this spring.  Democrats fought to ensure that no localities saw their funding cuts, while negotiating that only half of the Administration’s $15 billion request be offset through remaining funds from expired programs.

Because of Republican insistence — and the resistance by a number of our Members to making those offsets — we will go back to the Rules Committee to remove COVID funding and accommodate the revised bill.  We must proceed with the omnibus today, which includes emergency funding for Ukraine and urgent funding to meet the needs of America’s families.

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Reporting from Mike Lillis and Aris Folley with The Hill highlighted how it was ultimately a revolt from Democratic members. 

According to their report:

Pelosi placed the blame largely on Republicans, but it was irate members of her own caucus who ultimately forced her hand. 

The move came after a tumultuous morning of internal talks between Pelosi, leaders of the Appropriations Committee and other key panels, and a number of lawmakers who were up in arms that the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package — released just hours earlier — proposed to offset $15.6 billion in new COVID-19 spending by clawing back unspent money sent to certain states as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill signed by President Biden one year ago. 

It was lawmakers from those states who threatened to block passage of the omnibus unless the clawback provision was removed.

Despite how Pelosi warned in the letter that "We must proceed with the omnibus today," Marisa Schultz subsequently reported for Fox News that the vote was delayed. Schultz's reporting also made reference to Democrats in disarray when it comes to COVID funding.

As Schultz mentioned:

Members told Fox News Digital that delays surrounding the bill have to do with major concerns about coronavirus funding, as well as defense spending levels and the short amount of time to review the contents of the 2,741-page measure just hours before they were expected to approve it.  

"They're learning some of the things for the first time of what's in the bill and what's not in the bill," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. "That's your biggest problem."  

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Members such as Reps. Lisa McClain (R-MI) and Chip Roy (R-TX) highlighted the monstrosity of the bill, in the size and some of the outrageous proposals. 

Of particular concern for some members, for instance, has to do with the 2nd Amendment when it comes to the "NICS DENIAL NOTIFICATION ACT OF 2022," included in the "TITLE XI—LAW ENFORCEMENT TOOLS TO ENHANCE PUBLIC SAFETY" section.

According to the omnibus spending bill, local law enforcement would be empowered to open criminal investigations into those who fail a background check. 

Democratic members were also forced to delay their conference retreat in Philadelphia, which included some rather interesting agenda items.

The news of the delay was mocked by Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who chairs the Republican Study Committee (RSC). 

The omnibus also contains another loss for Democrats, as I highlighted earlier on Wednesday, in that it includes the Hyde Amendment, a budget rider which has passed every year since 1976 to protect taxpayers from having to fund elective abortions. 

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Congress must pass a government spending bill by Thursday night, or else risk facing a government shutdown on Friday, March 11. 

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