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Five Reasons The Omnibus Appropriation Passed By Such Big Margins

17 Jan 2014
Posted by Stan Collender

In case you missed it, the FY2014 omnibus appropriation, which will keep the government funded through the September 30, that is, through the end of the fiscal year, passed the Senate yesterday 72-26. It was adopted by the House the day before 359 to 67.

Here are the five quick reasons why the votes were so big and bipartisan.

1. The GOP is still hurting from the October government shutdown. There's no doubt that the negative political repercussions from being blamed for this October's two-week shutdown is haunting House Republicans. As happened after the 1995-1996 shutdowns when congressional Republicans took it on the chin politically, the chances of a shutdown being threatened again any time soon are now significantly lower than they were several months ago and the omnibus was the first opportunity for the House GOP leadership to take advantage of this new sentiment.

2. The omnibus gave the leadership a way to reward members for their votes in favor of the bill. This is real inside-baseball: An omnibus appropriation provided an opportunity for the leadership to buy support from reluctant members by providing more dollars for their pet programs and projects. The demise of earmarks several years ago plus the use of continuing resolutions (which generally don't provide dollars on a program-by-program basis) to fund the government took that ability away. This was the first appropriations bill in five years where that wasn't the case.

3. Most members of Congress like for appropriations. I know this is counterintuitive at a time when federal spending always seems to be under attack, but even the most conservative members of Congress like to vote for appropriations that will be spent in their districts and states, and their districts and states typically want the federal dollars that will be spent there. Does anyone really doubt that Republicans and Democrats and conservatives and liberals will all be bragging to their constituents in the coming days about what's in the omnibus for them?

4. There was no big issue the GOP wanted in exchange for passing the omnibus. The strategy has changed from October when defunding Obamacare was the price for Republican votes. Now the GOP wants to keep Obamacare around as an issue and nothing -- not tax reform, not Medicare, and not immigration -- have replaced Obamacare as the defining issue for House and Senate Republicans.

5. The Republican mainstream is trying to make the tea party wing look ineffective. There is a major effort currently underway in the Republican Party to stop the more extreme and unelectable candidates from being nominated in GOP primaries. Part of that campaign almost certainly includes limiting the tea party's apparent effectiveness on Capital Hill by denying it major victories like government shutdowns. This bill was the first example of that emerging strategy.

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