Senate Omnibus Likely Loaded with Old Earmarks | Citizens Against Government Waste
The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Senate Omnibus Likely Loaded with Old Earmarks

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


For the 23rd consecutive year, members of Congress failed to pass the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government prior to the start of the new fiscal year (FY).  As a result, the government is being funded by a continuing resolution (CR) that extends until November 21, 2019.  The Senate has a lot of catching up to do in order to complete their versions of the FY 2020 appropriations bills.  Unlike the House, which passed 10 of 12 bills on time, the Senate failed to pass a single spending bill prior to the deadline

In order to expedite the process, the Senate is currently considering an omnibus package that includes five appropriations bills:  Agriculture, Rural Development, and the Food and Drug Administration; Commerce, Justice, and Science; Interior and Environment; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

A brief analysis of the omnibus indicates that we can likely expect to see a lot of the same earmarks that appeared in these appropriations bills in FY 2019.  Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) 2019 Congressional Pig Book Summary featured earmarks for 13 programs or projects that were funded in the FY 2019 version of the appropriations bills that are now included in the Senate omnibus.  Of these 13 programs or projects, 10 are funded in the Senate bill.

As a point of clarification, since the Senate has not released the full version of the appropriations bills, complete with tables indicating whether the projects received a funding request from the executive branch, CAGW cannot as of yet label them earmarks.  This lack of transparency is one of several reasons why CRs represent a remarkably poor method of governance.  Moreover, the omnibus being considered by the Senate is 692 pages long, which will leave little time for legislators (and the general public) to review in detail prior to a vote.

While they do not yet qualify as earmarks under CAGW’s criteria, it seems highly likely that they will count as such in the end.  Many of the programs have been heavily earmarked in the past, including $8 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission and Delta Regional Authority, which matches exactly the amount earmarked in FY 2019. 

The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund receives $65 million in the Senate bill, which also matches the earmark in FY 2019.  The funding for this project is particularly likely to have been included via an earmark, as Senate Appropriations Committee member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has long championed the program, and it has gone without a budget request for the last four years.  Several other projects that were earmarked in FY 2019 which also receive funding in the omnibus include the Community Oriented Policing Services program, Save America’s Treasures grants, and funding to eradicate the brown tree snake.

At first glance, the Senate has produced much of the same so far in its FY 2020 appropriations package.  Readers can likely expect similar earmarks to be included in the next version of the Pig Book, due out this spring.

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