8 min read

How to fund a government

Breaking down the 4,000-page government funding bill and its key provisions on everything from January 6th to TikTok.
How to fund a government

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, December 20, 2022. The 2024 elections are 686 days away.

This morning, I want to fill you in one on the government funding package expected to pass this week. I know that may not sound like the most exciting thing — but seeing as it’s the bill that funds the entire government, it’s kind of a big deal.

And I promise, as always, I’ve done my best to translate the Washington lingo for you and explain everything in understandable terms, since if there’s anything that citizens should make sure they understand, it’s where their tax dollars are going.

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What’s in, what’s out: Inside the government funding package

After months of negotiations, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle came together to unveil the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, the annual government funding package, early this morning.

The process behind the package was vintage Washington: Less than four days before government funding was set to run out, after negotiations that included only a handful of top senators and House members, a 4,000+ page bill was released at about 1:30 in the morning that will cost $1.7 trillion — more than the GDP of most countries on Earth — and keep the U.S. government chugging for another nine months.

Adding to the only-in-Washington absurdity: the all-important bill — touching everything from military spending to health care — was delayed for several hours because of an intra-party dispute between Virginia and Maryland Democrats... about where the new FBI headquarters should be located. (In the end, the two sides couldn’t agree, so the package punts the issue and sets up a process for officials to meet with officials from both states to hear their cases.)

For a quick lesson on jargon, the piece of legislation at play here is known as an “omnibus package,” since it literally is a vehicle for many things: namely, almost every program and service provided by the government.

Now that the omnibus has been unveiled, lawmakers have until the end of the day on Friday to get it passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by President Biden, in order to avoid a funding shortfall for the federal government, the nation’s largest employer. (In the unlikely event they fail to do this, it would spark a government shutdown, during which thousands of government workers would be furloughed and key programs would grind to a halt.)

Once it passes, the government is funded until September 30, 2023, setting up a spending fight that will surely be even more acrimonious, since control of Congress will be split between the two parties. I promise you: the location of the FBI headquarters will not be the most divisive issue next time around.

But first: let’s get through this year. You can read all 4,155 pages of the omnibus package here — but in case you’d rather claw your eyes out than do that, here’s a summary of the key provisions tucked into the bill, including ones related to January 6th, TikTok, and more.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democratic negotiator on the omnibus package. (Center for Strategic & International Studies)

What made it in the omnibus

  • Topline: $1.7 trillion in spending, including $858 billion for defense programs (a 10% increase from last year) and $772.5 billion for non-defense programs (a 22% increase).
  • $44.9 billion in aid for Ukraine, even more than the Biden administration asked for.
  • $40.6 billion in aid for recent natural disasters across the U.S, as well as $1 billion for Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and $600 million to address the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi.
  • Changes to the Electoral Count Act, the vague 1887 bill that former President Donald Trump and his allies used to their advantage on January 6, 2021. Under the new reforms, one-fifth of both the House and Senate will have to object to Electoral College votes to trigger a vote on certification, the vice president’s role in the certification will be clarified as ceremonial, only the elector slate approved by a state’s governor will be sent to Congress, and an expedited process to adjudicate election lawsuits will be laid out.
  • $402.9 million to fund “significant enhancements to the physical security of the Capitol” after January 6th — almost doubling the current allotment. There’s also funding for the Capitol Police to hire 137 new officers and $2 million to provide off-campus security for members of Congress after the Paul Pelosi attack.
  • New funding to implement the various bipartisan bills that have passed in the past year, including $58.7 billion for the infrastructure package and $5 billion for the Honoring our PACT Act (which expanded health care benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service).
  • A ban on TikTok being downloaded on federal government phones, due to security concerns about the Chinese-owned app.
  • $700 million for the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, which received a 22% increase and will now be funded at its highest level ever.
  • $501.6 million for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, nearly doubling the program’s funding as it transitions to the new 988 number.
  • $16.5 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and $8.4 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), both increases from last year and more than the Biden administration asked for.
  • $4.9 billion to address the opioid crisis. $5 billion for a program that assists low-income families with the cost of heating their homes.
  • An 8.6% funding increase for Head Start, a 5.6% increase for the NIH, a 12% increase for the National Science Foundation, and a 4.6% pay raise for the troops.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican negotiator on the ominbus package. (Defense Department)

What didn’t make the cut

Of course, there were also key items that lawmakers hoped to include in the omnibus but ended up being left on the cutting room floor. Here are a few:

🚨 What else you should know

➞ The House January 6th committee voted 9-0 on Monday to approve its final report and formally recommend the Justice Department charge former President Trump with four alleged crimes: inciting an insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to make false statements, and conspiracy to defraud the country.  

The panel also recommended charges for Trump allies including lawyer John Eastman, who helped craft the ex-president’s plan for overturning the 2020 election, and referred House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other GOP lawmakers to the House Ethics Committee for failing to comply with subpoenas.

The Ethics panel is unlikely to take action; it remains unclear whether the Justice Department will act on the committee’s recommendation and indict the former president.

CNN: “Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday put a temporary hold on the termination of a controversial Trump-era immigration policy known as Title 42 that was set to end on December 21, leaving it in place for now.”

  • The policy has been used by both the Trump and Biden administrations to quickly expel migrants at the southern border, using the pandemic as a rationale.

➞ Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) is facing calls to resign after a blockbuster New York Times story raised questions about whether he was lying about almost every facet of his résumé, from his college degree to his work history. Santos has yet to respond to the substance of the story, merely releasing a statement from his lawyer that attacked the Times and — fittingly — included a fake Winston Churchill quote.  

Rep.-elect George Santos campaigning for office. (Santos campaign)

🗓 What your leaders are doing today

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch or listen to it.

Executive Branch

President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9:50 am). He has nothing else on his public schedule.

Vice President Harris will hold ceremonial swearing-in ceremonies for four officials (3:50 pm):

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre does not have a press briefing scheduled.  

Legislative Branch

The Senate will convene (10 am) and begin consideration of the nomination of Russell Rumbaugh to be the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management.

The chamber will recess for the weekly party caucus lunches (12:30 pm) and then return later in the afternoon (2:15 pm). No votes are scheduled, although it is possible votes will be held on nominations or on the omnibus spending package.

The House will convene (12 pm) for a pro forma session, a brief meeting in which one member gavels the body in and then promptly gavels it out, so the chamber can say they were in session for constitutional purposes.

The House Ways and Means Committee will meet to discuss and vote on whether to release six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to the public (3 pm).

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court will not meet this week.

👋 Before I go...

Here’s a fun story: This Washington Post piece about a D.C. rescue dog’s journey to adoption this holiday season.

The dog in question, Princess Fiona, is a 7-year-old, 48-pound pit bull mix who has been in and out of a rescue shelter for years due to “her hair less, constant thirst, frequent potty breaks, and beer-belly-chic physique” — all of which stem from her hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing’s disease, a stress syndrome.

“Like many,” the Post reports, “Princess Fiona appeared to be perpetually worried about the state of the world.” But don’t worry: she does eventually find a home.

Read the story here.

👍 Thanks for reading.

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— Gabe