Issue: H.R. 133, FY 2021 Appropriations. Vehicle: United States-Mexico Economic Partnership Act. Question: On Concurring in Senate Amdt with Portion of Amdt Comprising of Divisions B, C, E, and F.
Result: Passed, 327 to 85, 18 not voting. Subsequently passed in Senate (Senate Vote 289, 12-21-20). Became Public Law 116-260 (signed by the President, 12-27-20). GOP only scored.
Freedom First Society: Congressional leaders again used an unrelated legislative vehicle (H.R. 133), to advance major legislation as an amendment to the vehicle. This sloppy and really unnecessary legislative procedure is both irritating and confusing to the public. For this Roll Call, we are presented with a portion (see below) of the combined $1.4 trillion FY 2021 omnibus appropriations and the $900 billion coronavirus “relief” bill that would amend H.R. 133. In fact, this portion is just a part of the $1.4 trillion FY 2021 appropriations.
We oppose this portion both for its content (particularly the appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security) and for its consolidation of four separate appropriations bills, which undermines essential accountability (see also below). We do not score the Democrats on this one, as a minority voted the right way (Nay), but many of those, such as the “progressives” for the wrong reason.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
Bill Summary: This piece of the House’s divided bill consisted of FY 2021 appropriations for the consolidated Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Financial Services, and Homeland Security pieces of the omnibus.
Analysis: Before the House amended H.R. 133 to become the $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations and the $900 billion coronavirus “relief” bill, House leaders first pushed through a resolution (H. Res. 1271, House Roll Call 249) to adopt an unusual procedure called “dividing the question.” The division created this separate vote for part of the omnibus appropriations. The procedure was opposed unanimously by the House GOP.
The division served to splinter the opposition, but it also allowed a minority of Democrats to vote against the portion of the omnibus they least favored, while supporting the other portion combined with the $900 billion coronavirus “relief.” But it was a phony cosmetic division, as both divisions had to pass for the amended H.R. 133 to advance to the Senate as one measure. Nevertheless, once divided a majority of each party supported both pieces.
This piece (Roll Call 250) consisted of FY 2021 appropriations for the Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Financial Services, and Homeland Security pieces of the omnibus.
The second piece (see Roll Call 251) consisted of the other eight spending bills plus the $900 billion coronavirus “relief” and some other legislation slipped in.
Regular Order Abandoned
Last July, the House passed its version of the 12 annual appropriations bills consolidated into two measures (H.R. 7608 on 7/24 — Roll Call 166 — and H.R. 7617 on 7/31 — Roll Call 178). Both were unanimously opposed by House Republicans. Subsequently, the Senate refused to take up the appropriations measures, propose its own versions, and go to conference.
Indeed, these appropriations could have been negotiated and approved in a timely manner, but for partisan political considerations. Even worse, there was no other justification for making them hostage to the coronavirus relief negotiations.
While continuing this partisan political standoff, Congress would pass four continuing resolutions (see, for example H.R. 8337, House Roll Call 198, 9/22/20) to keep the government open into the new Fiscal year that began on October 1. And finally, as Congress met in a December lame-duck session to wrap up the legislative session for the concluding 116th Congress, congressional leaders would agree to pass a combined appropriations omnibus with the coronavirus aid package — ensuring even less accountability and visibility for the votes of our representatives.
This is terrible legislative procedure. Continuing resolutions serve to extend and continue unconstitutional and deficit spending at current levels. Combining legislation into omnibuses or “minibuses” prevents any real consideration of the smaller focused pieces and allows many congressmen to vote for the bad by claiming that they had to support the good. And rushed deadlines make the situation even worse. They frustrate even some of the Leftists, as reported by The Hill (12-21):
Passage of both bills came despite howls from all sides about an opaque process that left lawmakers with just a few hours to read the colossal 5,593-page bill before casting their votes.
“It’s not good enough to hear about what’s in the bill,” tweeted progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). “Members of Congress need to see & read the bills we are expected to vote on.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, echoed that message, accusing leaders in both parties of ramming the bill through Congress — and putting lobbyists ahead of the public in the process.
“No one will be able to read it all in its entirety,” he tweeted. “Special interests win. Americans lose.”
Congress has been promising to restore regular order (separate votes on the 12 appropriations bills) for decades. But with no pressure from an informed electorate to stop, the corrupted leadership of both parties will continue to rely on the lack of accountability in omnibus appropriations to advance Big-Brother government. This is no small matter. For the preservation of our free nation, out-of-control government must be brought to a halt. Just by itself, this vote is evidence that sufficient pressure to hobble Big-Brother government won’t come from politicians.
Indeed, the pressure to restore regular order will have to come from an informed electorate. And this forcing of congressmen to defend their votes on individual spending bills for specific areas of government is an important initial step on the way to forcing constitutional voting.
The procedure driving H.R. 133, instituted by congressional leaders, is alone sufficient justification for a “nay” vote. Yet the content of both pieces provided further justification. Both the level and purpose of the funding for the four in this division demand a “nay” vote. There is enough bad in the consolidated package for responsible representatives to vote “nay” and thus demand separation.
The most egregious is the funding for the Department of Homeland Security. We have just seen the further evolution of this dangerous federalization of the nation’s police power in a federal police force that can be deployed in our cities, solely at the whim of any sitting president. And from the Department’s inception in response to the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001, it was apparent that architects of the Department intended for it eventually to support a centralized, militarized police state under presidential control.