Several policy experts have weighed in over the past day on the general awfulness of the omnibus bill that Congress is now considering. Congress should reject this omni—both the indefensible policy and process—extend the current spending levels for another month or two and then return to regular order next year.
With Paragon’s policy analysts Drew Keyes and Joe Albanese, I authored a piece in National Review on the problematic health provisions:
The omnibus is Washington at its worst. It’s a huge end-of-year $1.7 trillion spending bill loaded with significantly expanded government authorities and programs and little opportunity for most members of Congress, much less the American public, to review it. This bill also shows that neither Congress nor the White House is serious about huge annual budget deficits and 40-year-high inflation, choosing instead to double down on reckless fiscal policy.
The legislation provides troubling new powers and spending at the public health agencies that repeatedly failed with their COVID-19 response.
Although the legislation allows states to begin eligibility redeterminations for Medicaid to reduce the nearly 20 million ineligible enrollees, it also makes it easier for many enrollees to keep Medicaid, creates a Medicaid slush fund, and unjustifiably funnels more taxpayer money to U.S. territories through Medicaid.
And rather than deal with Medicare’s alarming financing shortfall, the legislation delays sequestration until 2025 and increases pay for providers without any program reforms.
Richard Stern, a budget expert and senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, is equally critical of the omni in a Daily Signal piece:
The bill would reward the CDC for refusing to modernize its data systems—despite a statutory requirement in effect since 2006—by lavishing the agency with more money for data modernization.
The additional money for the CDC would come without holding it accountable for recommendations that schools remain closed for extended periods, that 2-year-olds wear masks, and other policies that harmed children.
Brian Riedl, another budget expert and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, also criticized the omni in another National Review piece:
In what has become a Christmas tradition, House and Senate leaders waited until the last minute and then stapled together 35 separate bills into a $2 trillion omnibus spending bill. Rank-and-file lawmakers have been duly warned that there is not enough time for them to read and absorb the contents of the mammoth 4,155-page bill (plus the 2,600 pages of explanatory statements that further define the spending). …
The new legislation spends way too much. The $1.7 trillion bill includes a 9.3 percent increase in nondefense discretionary spending — on top of last year’s 8.4 percent expansion. By permanently raising the baseline, this historic two-year spending binge will hike such spending by nearly $2 trillion over the next decade.
Finally, the editor of National Review Online Philip Klein is also out with a must-read piece on how “The $1.7 Trillion Omnibus is a Scandal”:
It is a scandal for lawmakers to be sending $1.7 trillion out the door with so little debate under the shadow of rampant inflation and a looming fiscal crisis. During the pandemic, federal debt eclipsed the value of the nation’s annual economic output for the first time since World War II. After the World War II emergency passed, spending retreated to more normal levels, and the debt steadily diminished. But the end of the Covid crisis is not following the same pattern. Debt is expected to remain at elevated levels, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and blow past the World War II record within a decade. This is a result of rising health-care costs, an increase in the retirement-age population, and Congress’s deciding to bake some of the Covid-era emergency-spending initiatives into the regular budget.
The Medicare Trust Fund is set to be depleted by 2028 — within the next president’s term — and Social Security’s by 2034, according to the trustees of the programs. If no gradual changes are made to the programs before then, it would translate into a sudden 10 percent cut to Medicare benefits and 23 percent cut to Social Security benefits.
Although it’s almost Christmas, it’s hard for those of us who support responsible and mature governing to find any joy in Washington right now.
Fortunately, there are other ways to obtain joy, such as through fellowship with family and friends and gratitude for our many blessings. I wish you and your family safe travels if you hit the road and very happy holidays.
All the best,
Paragon Health Institute