A $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill was unveiled last night in Congress to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year. The bill will be voted on by the end of the week.
In a normal year, Congress passes and the president signs into law 12 separate appropriations bills. These 12 bills together provide funding for the federal government. The goal is to pass all 12 bills by Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year. However, these are not normal times; Congress has failed to pass these 12 bills in nine of the past 10 years. When Congress fails to pass these appropriations bills by October 1, funding for the federal government is usually handled by passing a continuing resolution, which provides funding at the same level as the previous fiscal year. These stopgap funding measures keep the government’s doors open while Congress works to pass a new budget.
An omnibus spending bill packages together all 12 of the appropriations bills that are supposed to be passed individually into one large spending bill, worth billions or even trillions of dollars. In addition to these 12 appropriations bills, omnibus spending bills often contain many unrelated pieces of legislation.
As a result, omnibus bills are typically hundreds or even thousands of pages long. Indeed, the version that has taken shape this week is 1,582 pages. Because of their size, omnibus bills usually only receive a cursory look by the committees charged with reviewing them. And despite a lack of understanding of what is in an omnibus, they are not usually subject to much debate and will pass through Congress quickly.
For more on this, check out Who Won and Lost in the 2014 Budget.