What: All Issues : Labor Rights : Rights of Public Employees : H.R. 2673. Fiscal 2004 Omnibus Appropriations/Vote on Final Passage of an Omnibus Spending Bill to Fund the Operation of Government in 2004. (2003 house Roll Call 676)
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H.R. 2673. Fiscal 2004 Omnibus Appropriations/Vote on Final Passage of an Omnibus Spending Bill to Fund the Operation of Government in 2004.
house Roll Call 676     Dec 08, 2003
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

In a series of four procedural votes which were held prior to this vote, Republican leaders were able to circumvent House rules and pave the way for passage of the omnibus appropriations bill on the same day that it was reported out of committee (see Roll Call Votes 672, 673, 674, and 675). Each year, Congress must pass and the president must sign into law thirteen appropriations bills either separately or in the form of an omnibus bill in order to fund the operation of government. If all thirteen spending bills are not adopted by October 1, the end of the fiscal year, then the areas of government which failed to receive funding for the upcoming year shut down, a situation which occurred in 1995 when the Republican-controlled Congress and President Clinton failed to come to agreement on spending issues. Omnibus appropriations bills, which have increased in usage in recent years, bundle two or more of the thirteen individual appropriations bills into a single measure. Given their often enormous size and complexity, lawmakers readily admit that omnibus bills are not the ideal vehicle for debating budgetary issues. Nonetheless, if Congress appears unable to complete action on all thirteen spending bills by the end of the congressional session, then House leaders often rely on the omnibus method in order to expedite passage of those bills. Generally, lawmakers are less willing to oppose an omnibus bill based on specific policy or funding objections because omnibus legislation raises the stakes of budgetary policy-making (witness the public outcry in 1995 after the partial government shutdown). The subject of this vote was final passage of the 2004 omnibus appropriations bill, a bill which bundled seven uncompleted appropriations bills into one enormous spending package. Specifically, the omnibus bill included appropriations for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs (more than seven federal departments are listed here because some appropriations bills, such as the Transportation and Treasury Department appropriations bill, include funding for more than one department). Progressives voted against the omnibus bill and argued that the Republicans' procedural tactics on the omnibus bill were in violation of the rules of the House and the rights of minority Democrats (see also House vote 590 for other examples of what Democrats have characterized as strong-arm, or even unlawful, tactics by the Republican leadership). Progressives protested that holding House floor debate on the omnibus bill on the same day that it was reported from the Rules Committee provided them with an insufficient amount of time to read the bill and understand its contents. Progressives also voiced specific policy objections to the seven appropriations bills which were lumped together into the omnibus legislation. While those objections are far too numerous to detail here, a sampling of complaints include the failure to extend unemployment benefits to the millions of out-of-work Americans, the inclusion of administration-supported rules to deny overtime pay to certain classes of white-collar workers, provisions to allow greater media concentration, and language to privatize some government jobs. Conservatives voted in favor of the omnibus bill and argued that the end of the congressional session justified their efforts to complete action on appropriations legislation. On a vote of 242-176, the 2004 omnibus spending bill was adopted and the measure was signed into law on January 23, 2004 and a partial government shutdown was narrowly avoided.

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