Explainer: What you should know about the 2018 omnibus spending bill
Religion & Liberty Online

Explainer: What you should know about the 2018 omnibus spending bill

On Friday, Congress passed—and President Trump signed into law—a massive new omnibus spending bill. Here are some key points you should know about this legislation:

What is an omnibus spending bill?

An omnibus (Latin meaning “for everything”) bill is one that includes diverse and unrelated topics into a single legislative package. An omnibus spending bill is thus a bill that includes a broad range of appropriations legislation related to federal government funding.

How much spending is included in the omnibus bill?

The 2,300-page bill includes $1.3 trillion in federal government spending.

How does the omnibus reflect President Trump’s budget priorities?

In his 2019 budget request, President Trump wanted:

Ÿ• To increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Instead, non-military spending increased by $63 billion over last year.

Ÿ•Ÿ An additional $25 billion for a border wall. Instead, he got $1.6 billion for border security, of which only $38 million can be spent on “border barrier planning and design.”

Ÿ•Ÿ To eliminate the $152 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Instead, the funding was increased by $3 million.

Ÿ•Ÿ To eliminate the $500 million in funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), a discretionary grant program launched as part of President Obama’s stimulus plan. Instead, the budget for TIGER was tripled to $1.5 billion.

Ÿ•Ÿ To eliminate the $3 billion in funding for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). Instead, the budget was nearly doubled at $5,778,000.

Ÿ•Ÿ To eliminate the $309 million in funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). Instead, the budget was increased to $353,314,000.

Ÿ•Ÿ To cut spending for a research office on renewable energy and efficiency by more than 65 percent, from $1.3 billion to $696 million. Instead, the budget was increased by 14 percent to $1.62 billion.

What noteworthy or unusual items were included?

Ÿ Election Security — Includes $380 million for Election Assistance Commission grants to “improve the administration of elections for Federal office, including to enhance election technology and make election security improvements.”

Ÿ NICS Fix — Includes a requirement that federal and state authorities report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Ÿ IRS Targeting — Prohibits the IRS from using agency funds “to target citizens of the United States for exercising any right guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States” or “to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs.”

Ÿ Tip-pooling — Prohibits employers from taking workers’ tips under a proposed Department of Labor rule that would allow the redistribution of tip money to back-of-house workers.

Ÿ Opioid Epidemic — Includes $500 million for research on opioid addiction. Also includes several billion more for opioid related programs and studies.

Ÿ Rural broadband — Includes $600 million for a new pilot program within USDA aimed at rural broadband.

Which special priorities wanted President Trump, the GOP, or Republican voters were not included?

Ÿ Sanctuary Cities — Does not defund “sanctuary cities” (i.e., cities that don’t comply with federal immigration laws) as President Trump requested.

Ÿ Planned Parenthood — Does not defund Planned Parenthood.

Ÿ Obamacare — The proposals to deregulate the insurance market were not included.

Ÿ DACA Fix – Does not include any resolution on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Ÿ Johnson Amendment — Does not repeal the amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, which allows the IRS to threaten religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).