H.R. 3194 – Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2000


In November 1999, rebounding from President Clinton’s veto of five of the regular appropriations bills for FY2000, Congress rushed an omnibus package through the day before adjournment for winter recess. The 1,175-page conference report was filed at 3 a.m. on November 18, giving representatives and senators each less than 18 hours to read it before consideration began. During consideration of the measure in the House, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) said, “This mammoth bill, more than a foot thick and thousands of pages long, was filed after 3 a.m. this morning. It became available to view only a few short hours ago. In reality there is not one member of the House who knows all of what is in this bill. All we know for certain is that there are a multitude of provisions here that would never have survived the normal legislative process.” The conference report was also extraordinary for legislating by reference, prompting Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) to call the bill “little more than a glorified table of contents.”


    Congress: 106th

    Date: November 1999

    Majority party: Republicans (House & Senate)

    Bill sponsors: Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK)

    Committees of jurisdiction: House Committee on Appropriations

    President: Bill Clinton



House action on conference report
Fewer than 5 hours to read 1,175-page conference report

    Thurs., 11/18/1999 (3:06 AM) — House and Senate conferees file H. Rept. 106-479, the conference report to accompany H.R. 3194.
    Thurs., 11/18/1999 (11:00 AM) — Rep. John Dingell (D-MS) says report became available during late morning. BEGIN READING
    Thurs., 11/18/1999 (3:42 PM) — House passes H. Res. 386, a rule waiving all points of order against the conference report.
    Thurs., 11/18/1999 (3:44 PM) — Rep. Bill Young (R-FL) brings up conference report for consideration under the provisions of H. Res. 386. END READING
    Thurs., 11/18/1999 (5:35 PM) — House agrees to the conference report by a vote of 296 – 135 (Roll no. 610).

Senate action on conference report
10 hours to read 1,175-page conference report

    Thurs., 11/18/1999 (3:06 AM) — House and Senate conferees file H. Rept. 106-479, the conference report to accompany H.R. 3194.
    Thurs., 11/18/1999 (11:00 AM) — Rep. John Dingell (D-MS) says report became available during late morning. BEGIN READING
    Thurs., 11/18/1999 (9:10 PM) –Senate agrees to motion to proceed to consideration of conference report by vote of 80-8 (Record vote no. 369). END READING
    Fri., 11/19/1999 (5:45 PM) — Senate agrees to conference report by vote of 74-24 (Record vote no. 374).



Congress cleared all 13 regular appropriations bills for the fiscal year 2000. President Clinton vetoed five of them, forcing Congress to make adjustments and elect to pass them again in an omnibus package. During floor debate, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) defended the measure:

Even when people would like to rewrite recent history, this is the first time in my 15-year career that we put 13 appropriations bills on the desk of the President. He signed eight of them and vetoed five because there was not enough spending to suit him.
We negotiated each bill individually. This is not an omnibus bill. Each bill was negotiated individually, and each authorizing bill that is in this package has been voted on by this House.

Policy criticisms by others

Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) said:

Once again, as we did last fall in our negotiations with Speaker Gingrich, we snatched a modest victory out of a misguided Republican budget process that cared more about providing a tax cut for the wealthy and corporate special interests than about doing the right thing for average Americans….
Mr. Speaker, we achieved a big win for the environment by stripping out the most extreme Republican anti-environmental provisions that were sneaked into the back door of this budget.
But for all we have accomplished in this bill, this Congress has this year failed the American people. Despite the progress we made in the last several weeks on behalf of these priorities, we have not done enough on the agenda of the American people. And instead of doing the people’s business, we squandered at least 2 months debating a failed trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthy and special interests.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) took issue with the budget process:

Mr. Speaker, the DC Appropriations bill is the shell in which the Republican leadership has chosen to place the legislative kitchen sink, so the speak. This bill includes a myriad of provisions that have nothing to do with the District of Columbia–Interior Appropriations; Labor-HHS Appropriations; a Satellite Home Viewers Act; certain dairy provisions and, the bill about which I am here to speak today: The Medicare BBA Refinement Act….
I voted against the bill when it first passed the House, because it was not paid for-and thus shortened the life of the Medicare Trust Fund about a year, and increased beneficiary Part B premiums by at least 50 cents a month.
It still is not paid for–and now reduces solvency by more than a year, and increases beneficiaries’ costs by several billion dollars over the next five years, increasing premiums about a dollar a month. It spends about $16 billion of the Social Security surplus over the next five years, and $27 billion over ten years.
It didn’t need to be this way. In the $212 billion a year Medicare program, there is fraud, waste, and abuse, and we could have saved several billion a year to pay for the relief that some providers needed.
I am most disappointed about the budget games that were played on the 5.7 percent hospital outpatient department issue–which is a $4 billion gift to hospitals. When the BBA passed, we meant to reduce payments to hospitals which had been shifting overhead costs to outpatient departments. It is the rankest Orwellian revisionist history to claim otherwise. But revisionist history is what has happened. So that neither the White House nor the Congress would be charged for the $4 billion gift, there has been an exchange of letters in which no one is `scored’ for the cost of spending $4 billion more. It is like manna from heaven, a miracle for which no one is responsible and no one has to pay.
Mr. Speaker, it is all phony, it is all a distortion of the budget process. The give-away to hospitals does cost money; $1 billion will come from seniors. Therefore, we should have been honest and paid for it. It is money that will not be available to save Medicare. It is money that comes out of the Social Security surplus. And that is the truth.
Mr. Speaker, this kind of dishonest budget game destroys faith and trust in government. Its true cost is much more than the $4 billion gift to hospitals.
There are other bad features. There is absolutely no hard proof that some of these providers need more money. In many cases, the Congress has just been rolled by lobbyists and major contributors….
I would vote no if this were a free-standing bill based on is merits alone. That decision is made even easier by the process used here today which compiled all of these unrelated, important bills into one gaint package in order to try to force members of Congress to vote yes. Well, that theory doesn’t work on everyone. I vote no.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said:

Mr. Speaker, I will vote against the Omnibus Budget Agreement because it continues a pattern of budgeting which I feel undermines the confidence and credibility of the American public in one of the most important congressional responsibilities we have–managing the people’s money.
I opposed the 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement because it was clear there was no intention of implementing it. It was a ruse. Last year, there was $35 billion in excess spending at the last minute omnibus bill. This year, there is no more time for analysis, and the amount of money that is being gimmicked, manipulated and spent in violation of the budget rules is up to $45 billion.
While there is much in the bill that I support, and while it has been made better due to heroic efforts on the part of the Administration and the House Democratic leadership, it still falls far short of the mark to which Congress should be accountable. I continue to hope that the day will come when the budget process is transparent, not larded with unfortunate spending decisions and is done in a fashion that both Congress and the people we represent can follow what we’re doing. Until that day, I feel it appropriate to vote no.

Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) said:

While I am concerned with the budget gimmicks that are being used to mask the size of the overall spending in this package, I will support the legislation because I believe that overall, this legislation will maintain a balanced budget and keep us on track toward budget surpluses in the future….
I strongly urge the congressional leadership and the President to institute measures to allow Congress to finish its work on these spending bills earlier in the year to avoid last minute deals that inevitably lead to more spending.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) criticized the bill’s designation of census funding as “emergency” funding:

Mr. President, I don’t know if many of my colleagues have actually taken the time to read the bill before us.
If they have, they would have found some interesting provisions….We see it in the indefensible use of the so-called emergency designation.
I’ll take just one example, the decennial census. Mr. President, we have known for many years that there would be a census taken next year.
In fact, it’s provided for in our Constitution.
In a very real sense, we have known for over 200 years that there would be a census next year.
It comes as no surprise.
But you wouldn’t know that if you read this bill, Mr. President.
This measure provides that nearly $4.5 billion in funding for the census is to be declared an emergency.
An emergency, Mr. President.
Who are we kidding?
Next year’s census is an emergency? This is nothing more than a budget gimmick to avoid having to make tough choices.
Mr. President, I have no doubt there are other examples of the misuse of the emergency designation in this bill.
Over the next few weeks we will probably see news stories about just what Congress views as an emergency.
Mr. President, as must be painfully obvious to my colleagues by now, the dairy provisions alone in this bill make it completely unacceptable to me, and I will be voting against the bill for that reason. However, even if those provisions were not included in the legislation, I would still oppose it, and I would oppose it in part for the budget gimmicks that are strewn throughout it.

Process criticisms by ReadtheBill.org

The conference report was not drafted in the usual way. Instead, it made use of “legislating by reference.” Several members took issue with this, arguing that it made the report even more unreadable.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) said:

But the bigger danger this year is that we are passing major bills by reference. The text of four appropriations bills and four authorizing bills appears nowhere in this bill. Instead, this bill provides for their enactment by referring to them by number and date of introduction, which just so happens to be less than 48 hours ago.
Members of the Senate do not have this language before them. Even if we could offer amendments, how would we do it? How can you amend a bill that is included only by reference? Even more fundamentally, will bills that are enacted into law “by reference” withstand a Constitutional challenge that they violate the presentment clause?
The courts will have to decide the Constitutional issues. But it is one more reason why I believe this is a very dangerous process. It further erodes the rights of the minority, indeed the rights of all Senators. Coming, as I do, from a state with a small population, we depend greatly on the Senate to protect our states’ interest, something that cannot always be done in the House of Representatives, where population determines voting power.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) said:

Mr. President, we have before us a measure that we are told will direct something like $400 billion in spending in such areas as the Justice Department including the FBI, Education including funding for local school districts, increased security for our foreign embassies, the Interior Department including our national parks system, Health and Human Services including critical funding for aging programs like the congregate and home delivered meals programs, and much more.
But, Mr. President, you would not know that by reading this bill. That roughly $400 billion in spending is distributed in a few pages of text. With the exception of District of Columbia funding, it’s all on one page–the last page.
I have not been here as long as some of my colleagues, but I cannot recall ever seeing anything like this. Last year’s omnibus appropriations bill was bad enough. It, too, lumped several appropriations bills together into one giant omnibus appropriations measure. It, too, was loaded with special interest measures that were slipped in, never having been debated, and unlikely to pass on their own. But at least, Mr. President, the spending done in that bill was explicitly a part of the document formally placed before the Senate. If you took the time to read the several thousand page appropriations bill, you would have found those items last year.
Mr. President, the bill before us is another matter entirely. It legislates by reference. Other than the DC Appropriations bill, there are no details provided in this document that indicate how those hundreds of billions of dollars are to be spent, only references to other bills.
Mr. President, when this bill goes to the President for his approval, what will he be signing into law? Essentially, he will be signing into law little more than a glorified table of contents.
Mr. President, this is a horrible precedent. This kind of gimmick may have been used before, but never on anything so momentous as an omnibus appropriations bill. And it is perhaps fitting that this piece of legislation should be structured the way it is.

During House floor debate, many members voiced their support for the measure, but with reluctance. Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) said:

Mr. Speaker, this has been an imperfect process, and this is an imperfect bill….Procedurally, this bill repeats many of the same mistakes that were made last fall by the leadership. Despite the promises of the Speaker last January, once again we have a bill that was not done on time and was not done in regular order. We have an omnibus bill that reflects a “kitchen sink” approach to governing and, once again, Members did not have adequate time to read the bill to understand all of its provisions.

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) said:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to encourage my colleagues to vote against this. It is not necessarily that it is an entirely bad bill. But a year ago right now, all of us went around our respective districts and asked for the opportunity to spend the people’s money wisely.
The problem that I have with this bill is that, for the next 3 weeks, The Washington Post, the Washington Times, the New York Times are going to be running a series of articles every day of what was in this bill, and one is not going to know it was there. But one is going to have to tell one’s constituents, well, gosh, I did not know that money for a fleet buyout in Alaska was there or for a wood lot in North Carolina was there or for all the other silly things.

Rep. Michael Forbes (D-NY) said:

I come to the floor today severely grieved and sad because the old ways of Washington continue to prevail. The men and women we serve with here today are honorable people, but the process is dishonest. I think that those of us who came here in 1995 as part of the crowd that was going to end these megabills, these omnibus spending bills, catch-all bills that were thrown in with all kinds of pork, all kinds of spending, this is a dishonest process. I lament that. $385 billion on this floor right now passed by agreement last night at 4 o’clock in the morning. We should be ashamed, because we are upholding the old ways of Washington, the Washington math, dishonest. We are going home, and we are telling people that we did not spend the Social Security surplus. It is a bald-faced lie. Each one of us knows that. We should be ashamed.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) said:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation.
I am also deeply disappointed in the process that has brought us a bill that funds nearly half of the government programs at one time. This process does not allow Members to properly study the details of the legislation. I fear that over the next several days and weeks we will be appalled at special provisions that have been tucked into this bill for special interests. Taxpayers deserve more respect from Congress in the way it spends their money. This is not the way the House should do business. I urge the leadership of this House to begin work today on a bipartisan basis to ensure that we do not end up in this position again next year.

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) said:

Mr. Speaker, the procedure used to create this wrap-up bill was most unusual, and while I know there are very positive provisions in the bigger package, there are also sins of both omission and commission that have been discovered. But I wonder what sins may still be hidden from view since few have had the chance to read it through.

Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) said:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 3194, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill of 1999. This bill is a travesty, a massive symbol of the failure of this Congress to accomplish its most basic goal–passage of the 13 appropriations bills by September 30, the end of the fiscal year–on time and in order. Instead, we have lumped together numerous pieces of legislation, as well as five appropriations bills, and slapped them together like a giant Thanksgiving turkey to present to the American people.
The process by which we come to this vote on this House. This bill–over a foot high, hundreds of pages thick and in its final form with only a few copies available to all 435 members–was filed at 3:00 a.m. this morning. Members of this Chamber have not had the opportunity to read or even review this legislation. No one knows what kind of special-interest boondoggles lie in the text of this bill, and no one will know for days to come.
The majority in this House even voted to suspend the rules that govern the budget process by forbidding the Congressional Budget Office to `score’ this bill, which would let members know just how much all of these provisions will cost the taxpayers. According to the last CBO estimate of this bill, the majority would pass a bill that breaks their promise to leave untouched the Social Security Trust Fund. CBO recently said this bill would use $15 to $17 billion of the Trust Fund–and who knows just how much this Congress will raid from the Trust Fund once this bill in its final form is enacted….
However, there is no reason why this Congress could not have passed these initiatives in a deliberative manner with full debate in this House, instead of in this format. Instead, the majority has cobbled together a massive Thanksgiving turkey of a bill, to present to the American people in one whole form to avoid the scrutiny that would mean the death of some of the more controversial provisions in this legislation. These are the same leaders that told the American people that if they were in charge they would pass a budget on time, with 13 appropriations bills passed separately, without spending any of the Social Security Trust Fund. Their failure to keep their word has resulted in this bill, which I urge my colleagues to oppose.

Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-TX) said:

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the process which brought about this omnibus bill makes a mockery of regular order in this House. Over seven weeks into the new fiscal year, and requiring an array of accounting gimmicks purporting to stay within the budget caps, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle should be ashamed of themselves for bringing such a monstrosity forward at this eleventh hour. Filing conference reports at three in the morning and then insisting that we pass legislation which no one has had the opportunity to comprehensively review serves no useful purpose other than to convey to the American people how incapable the majority is of effectively governing. Their display of ineptitude is, however, a perfect ending to a session of Congress that will long be remembered as one of missed opportunities to address the needs of Americans. Included in this graveyard of dead legislation are such important initiatives as a patients’ bill of rights, prescription drugs for the elderly, and substantive reform of Medicare and Social Security.
This bill caps this Congress’ departure from the 1997 Balanced Budget Act which I helped write and supported. Because of that bill and previous actions, the Nation today enjoys both a budget surplus and good economic times. Early in the year, however, the Republican Leadership determined to increase funding for defense, agriculture, education; much of it justified, but in excess of the 1997 caps. Rather than honestly explaining this to the American people, the Republican Leadership chose instead to engage in budget gimmicks and subterfuge as is evident today. Unfortunately, at this late hour, they have held hostage must-pass initiatives related to health care, general government, foreign policy and education. Because of that fact, and the fact that we continue to maintain a balanced budget and dedicate the vast majority of the projected surplus to debt reduction, I will support this conference report. Many of the items contained in the bill are too important to be allowed to lapse.
… Mr. Speaker, this is by no means a perfect bill and the process has been deplorable.

Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) said:

I had very serious concerns about the way in which this bill came before the House. It was a far-reaching measure, rolling into one oversize pile not just five appropriations bills but also several important authorization bills. It was filed in the early hours of this morning. I am confident that very few if any Members were able to read it all. Yet that is how it was, and we had to vote it up or down, with only limited time for debate and no chance to change it.
This is not the way we should do our work. While we are already more than two weeks late, today we passed yet another continuing resolution to keep the agencies covered by this bill operating. So we had some time–and we should have taken the time to do things the right way.
However, the majority’s leadership decided to reject that more orderly way of proceeding. We had to choose a simple yes or no. And, after careful consideration, I decided to vote against this bill.
This was not an easy decision. In reaching it, I was conscious of many good things that were in the five appropriations bills and the other measures that were rolled into this one large, indigestible lump.

Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) said:

Mr. Speaker, well here we go again. Another year and another last minute, take-it-or-leave-it, catch-all budget that funds most of the government. The Republican Leadership didn’t do its homework all year and now they expect a gold star because they got a C on the final exam.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) said:

Mr. Speaker, once again a more curious process has produced an omnivorous end-of-session spending bill. It is fair–and accurate–to say that most Members of this body would fail a pop quiz on the contents of this legislation, given that it only became available for review late this morning, replete with handwritten additions, deletions and elisions.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-CA) said:

Notwithstanding all these things that are good within the bill, I am concerned about the process. This bill forward funds much too much money. Also, I am concerned with the whole process of not being able to read the five (5) bills. Putting all five bills together in one omnibus spending bill is not good and does not serve this House well.

Rep. Jerry Klezcka (D-WI) said:

Mr. Speaker, we have apparently not learned from history. The Omnibus Appropriations bill the House is considering today is very similar to the budget-busting, catch-all bill that Congress passed last year. This time the bill, which was filed at 3:00 a.m. this morning in the cloak of darkness, measures one foot tall. It is impossible for Members to know all the details included in this massive measure, including the type and amounts of pet projects inserted without debate. Sadly, this omnibus bill comes to us after we heard the Republican Leadership maintain their commitment to make the trains run on time and send the President 13 separate appropriations bills.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) said:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 3194, a $385 billion omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2000. Although the bill includes many beneficial provisions that I have worked hard to advance, I regret that they have been tied to a package that is deeply flawed in both procedure and substance.
This bill violates a rather simple rule of good legislating–members ought have the opportunity to review legislation before they are asked to cast their vote. They clearly have not had that opportunity here. This mammoth bill, more than a foot thick and thousands of pages long, was filed after 3 a.m. this morning. It became available to view only a few short hours ago. In reality there is not one member of the House who knows all of what is in this bill. All we know for certain is that there are a multitude of provisions here that would never have survived the normal legislative process.

Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) said:

Mr. Speaker, I intend to vote against the omnibus appropriations bill that is before us today. No respectable business would operate this way–and neither should our government.
I did not come to Congress to engage in business as usual. The people of Kansas’ Third District expect more of us. As Congress has done for too many years, today it will be voting on a bill estimated at 2,000 pages, which no one in this chamber has read, or even had the opportunity to give a cursory review. We are asked to vote based upon sketchy summaries of a huge piece of legislation that was filed as a conference report at 3:00 a.m. this morning. Is it too much to ask that we have 24 hours to review and consider a $395 billion appropriations bill before voting? This bill has not even been printed or placed on-line for our review or for the public’s examination. This is wrong and none of us should be a party to it….
Under the rules of the House, Congress is supposed to consider thirteen appropriations bills for each fiscal year. Under normal procedures, those bills should come before the House individually, with opportunities for amendment and debate. After a conference report is negotiated, the House should then have the opportunity to vote on each bill, standing alone. Unfortunately, Congress has refused to follow its own rules.
I have only been a member of this body for eleven months, but I understand that the rules and procedures of the House were put in place to protect the rights of all Members to represent fully the interests and concerns of our constituents. We cannot do so when we are confronted with an omnibus conference report which I am told is estimated at 2,000 pages, carries an overall price tag of $395 billion in fiscal year 2000 appropriations, and countless other provisions, whose consequences we cannot possibly know at this time.
I will vote against this package today and I urge my colleagues to do likewise.

Many Senators also spoke against the process.
During floor debate, Sen. Rod Grams (R-MN) said:

Mr. President, a year ago I was here in this chamber speaking on the 1998 Omnibus Appropriations legislation. I criticized the abusive process that made the entire negotiations exclusive, arbitrary, and conducted behind closed doors by only a few congressional leaders and White House staff, and few Members of the Congress had any idea what was in the bill but were asked to approve it without adequate review and amendments. I also urged the Congress not to repeat the mistake that we need to reform the process and start the process early in the year to avoid appropriations pressure.
Many of my colleagues shared my views at the time and agreed that the federal budget process had become a reckless game, and it not only weakened the nation’s fiscal discipline but also undermined the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution….
We were assured by Senate leaders that we were going to pursue real budget process reform early this year and that we would never have another omnibus spending bill in the future.
Mr. President, I believe what we have before us today is a repeat of what was promised to never occur again. Once more, with inadequate time to review. The Houses passed this omnibus bill with absolutely no knowledge of what was in it. This is nearly a play-by-play of 1998 because we have not reformed our budget process. As a result, after seven Continuing Resolutions, we have before us an omnibus spending bill that is full of creative financing and earmarked pork programs.
Mr. President, when will we ever learn our lessons?
Mr. President, it is entirely irresponsible and reckless that Congress has over-used advanced appropriations, used directed scoring, emergency spending and many other budgetary smoke and mirrors to dodge fiscal discipline and significantly increase government spending. Like last year’s omnibus bill, this legislation is heavily loaded with irresponsible and inappropriate provisions. It is severely flawed by new spending, no CBO scoring, gimmick offsets and billions of pork-barrel programs. Many last-minute spending needs were loaded into this omnibus bill just in the last few days. I still cannot even tell you what they are, since we haven’t been given enough time to review it. The double whammy delivered to Minnesota dairy farmers by adding a two-year extension of the Northeast dairy compact and 1 A order reform is my main reason for opposing this bill. These outrageous last-minute additions seriously hurt Mid-West dairy farmers and are the reason why we are still here today.
This omnibus bill has again proven that big government is well and alive in Washington. The bill provides a total $385 billion for just five spending bills, a significant increase over last year’s levels. Congress is recklessly and irresponsibly throwing more and more taxpayers’ money to help the President enlarge the government. Billions of dollars were added to the spending legislation avoiding the normal committee process, without any amendments and full debate. If hiring more police officers and more elementary school teachers is the solution to stop crime and improve education, let us have an open debate on the merits of the policy through the usual democratic process. Let’s not cut deals behind the closed door in meetings by just a few.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) said:

Mr. President, it is very unfortunate that the Senate finds itself in virtually the same position as we did last year with appropriations matters. As my colleagues will recall, we voted on a giant omnibus appropriations bill which contained eight appropriations bills, plus numerous other authorizing legislation. It ran on for nearly 4,000 pages and weighed in at some 40 pounds. It was called a “gargantuan monstrosity” by the distinguished Senator from West Virginia, Senator BYRD.
But it was a monstrosity not just because of its length. It was also in the size of its insult to the democratic process, to individual Senators, and to the people they represent.
It was bad enough that no Senator was able to read the bill before they were required to vote on it. Worse still was the fact the bill was presented to the Senate in a “take it or leave it” form. No amendments were permitted. Every Senator was effectively muzzled.
I voted against that bill. Not because it didn’t contain good provisions, good for the country, and good for my State of Montana. It did. I opposed that bill because writing such an important piece of legislation should not be done behind closed doors among a small group of people with no recourse for the others. I said at the time that the process dangerously disenfranchised most Senators, House Members, and the American people.
Many of my colleagues agreed with my sentiments then. And there were statements that this would not happen again. But it has.
True, this bill is somewhat shorter. It covers only five appropriations bills, not eight. It has fewer authorizing bills attached to it.
However, it still was written largely by a relatively few people, members of the majority, representatives from the Administration, a few members of the minority. And all behind closed doors, again….
Mr. President, we already face a population that is increasingly cynical of government and those who serve it. People believe more and more that government does not look after their interests, but only after special interests. And the more we operate behind closed doors, without an open, public process, the more we feed that cynicism. And the more we encourage mistrust.
That is not healthy for our democracy or our people. One of the best things Montanans did when we rewrote our State constitution in 1972 was to require open government, at all levels. It has helped keep government officials honest and helped the people have faith in that government. I wish this process were as open.
Someday, I hope that the Congress will return to the open process on appropriations bills and authorizing bills we had not so long ago. We could debate issues, offer amendments, make compromises, win, lose. But all in front of the people.
But this bill goes too far in the other direction and therefore, I cannot support it.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said:

Mr. President, the two bills we passed today–the tax extenders bill and the Omnibus Appropriations Act–like this entire session of Congress, can be summarized by four words: the good, the bad, the missing, and the undone….If the Republican controlled Congress had done its work and passed the appropriations bills by October 1, which is what is supposed to happen, we would not have needed these protracted and secretive negotiations that gave undue power to just a handful of people. As my colleague from Nebraska said, this whole process turned government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” into “government of and by four people.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said:

Mr. President, to quote Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu all over again. A little less than a year ago Congress passed an Omnibus Appropriations bill for fiscal year 1999. That legislation combined eight separate appropriations bills and included $200 billion in discretionary spending. Last year’s Omnibus spending bill also included $21 billion in emergency spending–$13 billion of which directly reduced the surplus for Fiscal Year 1999 and $5 billion of which reduced the surplus for Fiscal Year 2000. Members decried the process that led to last year’s bill, threw themselves on the mercy of the American public asking forgiveness, and vowed that it would never happen again.
One senior Republican, speaking on condition of anonymity about the level of frustration with last year’s budget process, said earlier this year: “We are looking for ways to avoid what happened last year. We are determined not to go through that again this year.” Unfortunately, Mr. President, here we are again–only worse. This year’s bill clearly demonstrates that Congress has not learned from its past mistakes.
What makes this bill even more insidious is that we not only repeat last year’s mistakes, but in fact, build upon them with even more creative ways to flaunt fiscal discipline. For that reason, I will oppose it.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said:

The “budget crisis” has become an annual, end-of-the-year ritual in which closed-door deals produce even more fodder for public cynicism about their government. This budget deal short-changes American taxpayers and benefits special interests, illustrating once again that the President and a majority of the Congress would rather spend the budget surplus on big government, special interest giveaways, and pork-barrel spending.
This deal makes a mockery of our obligation to responsibly exercise the “power of the purse” conferred on the Congress by the Constitution….
Some people have said this year’s deal is not as bad as last year’s deal. Looking at some statistics, that could be true to a certain extent:
Last year, the omnibus appropriations bill was 4,000 pages long and weighed over 40 pounds; this year’s stack of bills is only about 1,500 pages long but it’s almost a foot high.
Last year’s deal was done 21 days late and covered 8 of the regular appropriations bill that funded 10 federal agencies; this year’s deal covers only 5 of the regular spending bills for 7 agencies, but it’s 50 days overdue–more than twice as late as last year.
Last year, the negotiators added more than $20 billion in extra spending; this year, they only added a little more than $6 billion.
And last year, the whole deal was wrapped up in a single bill that included the text of 7 spending bills and a host of other legislation; this year, we are casting one vote, but it will count as a vote on each of 10 separate bills.
I guess one could legitimately claim, based on those statistics, that this year’s deal is not as bad as last year’s deal. But like last year, this year’s budget-busting behemoth is not amendable by any Member of Congress not involved in the negotiations over the past several weeks. Like last year, the process was deliberately designed to prevent any Member of Congress from changing any aspect of this back-room deal. What a farce.
Mr. President, like last year, this non-amendable budget deal is loaded down with pork, its true cost is obscured by budget gimmickry, and it is weighed down by policy “riders” that have no place in budget bills.
Before this deal was cut, the Senate had already passed spending bills containing over $13 billion in wasteful, unnecessary, and low-priority spending that was added without benefit of consideration in the normal, merit-based review process. That’s more than the $11 billion added by Congress for Fiscal Year 1999, and almost twice the $7 billion wasted in Fiscal Year 1998. On my website, I have published 264 pages of pork-barrel spending projects in the appropriations bills that passed the Senate earlier this year.
The bill before the Senate today contains even more everyday, garden-variety pork-barrel spending–almost half a billion dollars more than in the original bills. Some items which agencies were “encouraged” or “urged” to fund in earlier versions of these appropriations bills have now been earmarked for funding. Other projects that were earmarked in report language are now included in the bill language. Presumably, these further clarifications of Congressional intent were included to improve upon the already near certainty that these pork-barrel projects will be funded ahead of other projects of possibly higher priority or more deserving of the taxpayers’ support….
There were over 65 legislative riders on the appropriations bills that passed the Senate earlier this year, but it seems that every time I turn around, I hear about another issue that will be rolled into this non-amendable budget package.
Perhaps that is a result of the fact that these end-of-the-year budget deals are usually negotiated by Members of the Appropriations Committee, rather than the authorizers. Or it may be driven by the need to garner support for the deal from Members who may have a special interest in an issue. Whatever the reason, the inclusion of legislative matters thwarts the very process that is needed to ensure that our laws address the concerns and interests of all Americans, not just a few who seek special protection or advantage.
Some of these riders are not necessarily objectionable to me, but the circumvention of the authorization process that took place makes me unable to benefit from the advice and recommendations of the committees of jurisdiction and their members. I should note, however, that many of the reported efforts to add riders to the bill were unsuccessful, for which I applaud the negotiators. However, most of the 32 new riders in this bill are highly objectionable because of their content as well as the process that led to their inclusion in this budget deal….
I wonder, Mr. President, when will we begin to listen to the American people? When will we take heed of the absolute cynicism about the ways of Washington? When will we reform the way we do business so that we might reclaim the faith and confidence of the people we are sworn to serve?
Sadly, we seem never to learn. The last-minute, end-of-year budget agreement has become a yearly ritual and a tired cliche.
Mr. President, we have all year to complete our business in a responsible manner like grownups. But every day, at great expense to the taxpayers, we whirl about in our self-importance, never to be diverted from playing at our pathetic partisan political games.
After all the hearings, paper-shuffling, and speech-making, the taxpayers’ hard-earned money is spent according to the whims of a massive, hastily compiled budget deal that contains lots of goodies for Members of Congress and special interests, but very little for the American people–an annual monument to our arrogance that is chock full of pork-barrel spending, special-interest riders, and clever budget gimmicks, but not one morsel of family tax relief.
Mr. President, in just a few short weeks, we will usher in a new century and a new millennium. This is a time of renewal and reform. Just as individual Americans take stock of themselves and resolve to do and be better, perhaps we elected officials might resolve to set a better example in the way we conduct the people’s business. Perhaps in the year 2000, we might address ourselves not to partisan gridlock and political games, but to restoring the people’s faith in their elected leaders. Perhaps next year we can spare the American people the grim faces and high drama of the last-minute budget summit, and simply do our work responsibly, in the open, and on time.
Maybe then we can restore the confidence in our public institutions that is so badly flagging, but is so essential to making the new century worthy of the highest dreams and aspirations of the people we are privileged to serve.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) said:

Mr. President, I will vote for this final appropriations package, because I believe that, on balance, it is a good product. However, the situation we are in today is hauntingly familiar to that of a year ago, and my disappointment in the appropriations process continues. Last minute budgeting makes sound decisions increasingly difficult. We should reform the appropriations process to safeguard the interests of taxpayers and achieve a more balanced use of our time and resources.
We all know that the appropriations process has grown to an inordinate length. We spend months holding hearings and negotiations, crafting sound public policy, only to scrap it in a hasty year-end scramble when we cobble together a bill negotiated by the White House budget chiefs and a few members of Congress. A 1996 CRS study revealed that budget matters eat up 73% of the Senate’s time. I can’t imagine we spent much less time on budget matters this year.
As I have been recommending since 1993, along with our distinguished Budget Committee Chairman and many other Senators, Congress should adopt a two-year budget cycle, and do the budgeting in non-election years. This would double the time available for non-budget policy issues and for carrying out often neglected oversight duties. Our goal must be to engage in lawmaking in the deliberative manner the Founders intended.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) said:

Mr. President, once again the Senate is considering a massive appropriations bill in the final hours of a session of Congress. This one spends more than $385 billion, contains legislation which rightly belongs in five separate appropriations bills, and other important legislation which doesn’t belong in an appropriations bill at all. This is a process which reflects poorly on the Congress both because it represents a failure to get the nation’s work done on time, and because the final rush precludes the kind of careful consideration and debate which wise decisionmaking demands. The combination of its enormous size and the swiftness with which it was thrown together makes certain that Senators will only after the fact learn full details about many provisions which have been added.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) said:

This bill is the “poster child” of the 106th Congress. Unable to meet the budget deadline, we are once again presented with an omnibus appropriations bill, laden with the kind of special interest provisions that undermine our budget as well as the confidence of the public. And unwilling to bring any but a handful of authorizing bills to the floor for open debate, the leadership has now crammed this perverse bill full of legislation that has no business in an appropriations measure.
Mr. President, earlier this year this body voted to restore some order to the appropriations process by re-establishing the point of order against legislating on appropriations. This bill renders that exercise utterly meaningless. Worse, it means that while the Senate is precluded from adding authorizing language after thorough debate on the floor, a few people in a backroom are free to add anything they wish, with no debate and out of public view.
Mr. President, the 106th Congress is not yet half over a but it has already earned itself a sorry reputation. This is the Congress of Convenience. The 106th Congress found it inconvenient to finish the simple job of passing appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year, so it cuts a few backroom deals and lumps five appropriations bills together. The 106th Congress found it inconvenient to debate authorizing bills fully and openly, so it bundled several together and shoved them into this omnibus appropriations bill. And now, the 106th Congress finds it inconvenient to provide even the details of this $400 billion compost heap, so it engages in some drafting gymnastics, and gives the public little more than a glorified table of contents.
Mr. President, I realize there are some strong feelings about the provisions of this bill. I know that some of my colleagues support some of the provisions in this measure. Chances are there are provisions in this measure that I, too, would support, but how would I know? But I hope that a few weeks from now, after this thing is enacted, my colleagues will consider just what has been wrought this week and this past year. The normal procedures of the Senate and the other body have been run over by a steamroller in the name of political expediency and convenience, and that cannot be good, even for those who may have gained a temporary victory.
In the play A Man for All Seasons, there is an exchange between Sir Thomas More and his son-in-law, Roper. More asks Roper–“What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?” Roger responds–“I’d cut down every law in England to do that!” More then replies–“Oh? And when the last law was down, and the devil turned round on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? *.*.* This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–man’s laws, not God’s–and if you cut them down–and you’re just the man to do it–d’you really think you could just stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”
Mr. President, the 106th Congress has done more than its share of flattening our rules and procedures. Those of us in the minority on the issue before us today perhaps feel it most keenly, but let me suggest that many more may come to regret the precedents set by the Congress of Convenience. …