Fox News anchor Bret Baier disingenuously claimed that Democrats circumvented the legislative process by "dumping" everything into a single spending bill. In fact, similar omnibus bills are regularly used in the legislative process.
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Baier Claims Dems Bypassed "Normal Process" To "Dump" Everything Into Omnibus Bill
Baier: "Democrats Chose To Not Go Through The Normal Process And Dump It All Together." From the December 15 edition of Fox News' America Live:
MEGYN KELLY (host): There's been pushback on both sides. I mean, the Democrat -- the Republicans are acting like they're apoplectic over this, and yet now we're hearing more and more about how they've been working behind the scenes on this very bill for months. They knew what was going to be in it and don't believe the outrage. Where does the truth lie?
BAIER: Yeah, I think -- well, I've talked to a lot of Republicans who have earmarks in this thing. And they say they started with the appropriations committee two years ago, and these are projects that they had put in the process when it was going to go through the normal process. And Democrats chose to not go through the normal process and dump it all together. They're going to vote against this omnibus bill despite the fact that many Republicans have earmarks in it. [Fox News, America Live, 12/15/10]
In Fact, Omnibus Bills Have Become A "Significant Feature Of The Legislative Process"
Congressional Research Service: "Omnibus Appropriations Acts Have Become A Significant Feature Of The Legislative Process In Recent Years." An August 25, 2010, report issued by the Congressional Research Service stated:
Omnibus appropriations acts have become a significant feature of the legislative process in recent years as Congress and the President have used them more frequently to bring action on the regular appropriations cycle to a close.
Each year, Congress and the President enact discretionary spending in the form of regular appropriations acts, as well as continuing and supplemental appropriations acts. The number of regular appropriations acts had been fixed at 13 for several decades, but a realignment of the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees at the beginning of the 109th Congress reduced the number of regular appropriations acts normally considered each year to 11 (starting with the FY2006 cycle). The number of regular appropriations acts was increased to 12 at the beginning of the 110th Congress (starting with the FY2008 cycle) due to further subcommittee realignment and has remained at that level for the 111th Congress.
If action is not completed on all of the regular appropriations acts toward the end of a congressional session, Congress sometimes will combine the unfinished appropriations acts into an omnibus measure. In some instances, action on the unfinished appropriations acts carries over into the following session. An omnibus act may set forth the full text of each of the regular appropriations acts included therein, or it may enact them individually by cross-reference. For omnibus bills that take the form of continuing resolutions, however, it is important to distinguish between those that provide spending authority for more than one designated area based on a rate, versus those that combine full appropriations bills (either in text or via cross-reference) into a single package. Only those in the later class are counted as omnibus appropriations acts.
During the 25-year period covering FY1986-FY2010, 17 different omnibus measures were enacted into law for 15 different fiscal years (two separate omnibus appropriations acts were enacted for both FY2001 and FY2009). The 17 omnibus appropriations acts covered a total of 128 regular appropriations acts. Each of the measures funded between two and 13 regular appropriations acts, on average funding over seven (7.5) of them.
Twelve of the omnibus measures were bills or joint resolutions carrying the designation "omnibus," "consolidated," or "omnibus consolidated" appropriations in the title; four were continuing appropriations acts (FY1986, FY1987, FY1988, and FY2009); one was a continuing resolution (FY2007); and one was the VA-HUD Appropriations Act for FY2001, which also included the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for FY2001. [Congressional Research Service, 8/25/10; internal citations removed for clarity]
CQ Roll Call: "It Became Common Practice In The 1980s For Congress To Provide Funding ... In A Single Omnibus Bill." According to CQ Roll Call:
It became common practice in the 1980s for Congress to provide funding for most or all government departments and agencies in a single omnibus bill known as a continuing resolution. This type of resolution was usually used for stopgap funding and in the 1990s Congress began to back away from its use as an omnibus funding bill.
But this did not mean an end to other types of omnibus bills. In 1996, for example, Congress took a funding bill for one department and turned it into an omnibus bill containing all or part of five unfinished fiscal 1996 annual appropriations bills. Indeed, during Bill Clinton's administration, it was rare for the annual spending bills to move on their own rather than in an omnibus bill carrying at least two or more bills. In 2003, in the George W. Bush presidency, a continuing resolution was used once again, this time as the vehicle for eleven of the thirteen annual appropriations bills. [CQ Roll Call, accessed 12/15/10]
Republican-Led Congresses Regularly Passed Omnibus Bills
Wolfensberger: GOP-Controlled Congresses Passed Seven Omnibus Bills From 1995-2000 And From 2003-2005. Don Wolfensberger, former staff director of the House Rules Committee under Republicans, stated in a 2006 Roll Call column: "In the last eight years in which Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress (1987-94), there were omnibus bills in just two of those years. In the last nine years Republicans have controlled both chambers (1995-2000 and 2003-05), there have been seven." [Roll Call via Woodrow Wilson Center's Congress Project, 9/25/06]
Bush Signed Omnibus Appropriation Bills For FY 2003, 2004, And 2005. According to the Library of Congress' Thomas database, President George W. Bush signed omnibus bills for FY 2003, 2004, and 2005. During those years, Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress.
- On December 8, 2004, Bush signed an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2005, which included nine of the original 13 appropriations bills. [Thomas.LOC.gov, accessed 12/15/10]
- On January 23, 2004, Bush signed an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2004, which included seven of the original 13 appropriations bills. [Thomas.LOC.gov, accessed 12/15/10]
- On February 20, 2003, Bush signed an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2003, which included 11 of the original 13 appropriations bills. [Thomas.LOC.gov, accessed 12/15/10]