McConnell: Pass the 'Imperfect' Omnibus; Objecting Republicans Point to ‘Gateway Drug'–7,500 Earmarks

( – In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged passage of a pork-filled, $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill — 12 funding bills rolled into one without going through committee.

“The bipartisan Republican bill before this body is imperfect but strong,” McConnell said. “It will make huge new investments in our Armed Forces while cutting non-defense, non-veterans baseline spending in real dollars…outpacing inflation. Meanwhile, non-defense, non-veterans spending will come in below the rate of inflation, for a real-dollar cut.

At least five Senate Republicans held a news conference on Wednesday to explain their objections, including: It’s “three times the size of the Bible”; “a terrible business plan”; “$1.1 trillion in new debt”; and it contains “special favors” for lawmakers in exchange for their votes. (More below)

McConnell noted that “competitors such as China” are pouring money into their own militaries, indirectly or directly threatening the U.S. and its allies.

“Under these perilous circumstances, cutting defense spending in real dollars, as Democrats first wanted to do, is not an option.”


McConnell also ruled out a short-term continuing resolution, which would allow the incoming Republican majority in the House to set its own spending priorities for the year ahead.

“And embarking on a potentially endless cycle of continuing resolutions that give our military real-dollar funding cuts because of inflation, and give Defense Department leaders no certainty to plan and invest — that is not an acceptable option either,” McConnell said.

McConnell said if Republicans controlled the Senate — which they do not and will not in the foreseeable future — they would pass individual spending bills through regular order, holding hearings and voting on each one.

“But given the reality of where we stand today, senators have two options this week: We will either give our Armed Forces the resources and certainty that they need, or we will deny it to them.”

‘We get rolled by the other side’

But at a news conference of their own, five Republican senators — Mike Braun, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Rick Scott — announced their opposition to the behemoth spending bill:

“We get a bill that should have happened before September, that we all should have had plenty of time to review,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said. “We get a bill at 1:28 in the morning, that’s three times the size of the Bible. The Bible might have a lot of interesting stories, but I’ve tried to read the entire Bible straight through a bunch of times. It’s hard.”

“I’ve got my own theory,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said:

“I believe that we get rolled by the other side of the aisle. They’re unapologetic about their appetite for spending. This place is their growth business. And then we, as fiscal conservatives, complain about it but then go along with it.

“And whenever this is just a quid pro quo game, without doing any real work, rolling up your sleeves, it’s going to be the same result. And the only people coming out on the short end are the people we say we’re trying to serve.” Braun said. Borrowing money from your kids and grandkids without putting any forethought into what you’re spending is a terrible business plan.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wheeled in the 4,155-page bill, two stacks of paper, each about a foot high.  “Whose job is it to produce this?” Paul asked:

“The people in charge of spending had nine months to work on spending bills, but waited until a few days before Christmas to roll out a gigantic, bloated spending bill in the dark of night.”

“What is more dangerous to the country? $1.1 trillion in new debt? Or, as Republican leadership likes to say, ‘oh, but it’s a win.’ It’s a big win, we’re getting $45 billion for the military.

“So which is more important? Which threatens the country more? Are we at risk of being invaded by a foreign power if we don’t put $45 billion into the military? Or are we more at risk by adding to a $31 trillion debt. I think the greatest risk to our national security is our debt.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) held up a stack of paper representing, he said, $9.8 billion in earmarks –lawmakers’ pet projects, also called pork-barrel spending.

“The amendment that I’ll be asking for, which Sen. Schumer agreed to last week, would be to eliminate all the earmarks,”Johnson said:

“There are…$9.8 billion dollars’ worth of earmarks, he said. Thousands of individual projects here, both Democrat and Republican.

“It’s interesting to note on the Republican side we actually have a conference resolution that we don’t support earmarks.  Well, we’re supporting over $4 billion dollars’ worth; the Democrats are getting $5.4 billion dollars’ worth of earmarks. 

“This is the gateway drug to the massive government spending. The mortgaging of our children’s future has to stop. which is why I’m going to offer an amendment to eliminate all those earmarks in this massive omnibus spending bill.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-Utah) said lawmakers who pledged their support for the bill before the text was released “somehow knew what was in it.”

“Well, it wasn’t just that they were clairvoyant,” Lee said:

“It’s that they were sort of bought off, piece by piece, person by person, and I don’t mean bought off in the legally corrupt sense; but in the sense that it’s a corrupt process.

“You hand out enough special favors here and there to get this or that proposal, this or that funding priority in there, you throw in 7,500 earmarks and you’re going to get a lot of people to jump on board. And it isn’t right.

“It used to be that the legislative process involved reading and debating and discussing and amending. It used to be that once a bill like this reached the floor after it had gone through a full committee markup process, but you would still have an abundant chance on the floor to debate it and discuss it…but today it seems that we have to beg and plead and barter for any amendments…

“We get desensitized to this over time, the complexity. Complexity in law is itself a subsidy, it’s a corrupt subsidy that subsidizes the wealthy and the well-connected in this country.”


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