Given what you now know about how Congress works and how a bill is passed, what is different about an omnibus bill?  What is the strategy behind omnibus bills?  Provide an example from American...

Given what you now know about how Congress works and how a bill is passed, what is different about an omnibus bill?  What is the strategy behind omnibus bills?  Provide an example from American politics.  Other countries, notably Canada, use omnibus bills, but since this is an American government class, please stick with legislation from this country, at the federal level.

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There’s nothing complicated about omnibus bills.  They usually involve the annual spending bills that Congress passes covering virtually every aspect of federal operations, including providing funding for all the agencies of the federal government, including the Departments of State, Defense, the Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, and so on.  The federal government operates, as do most businesses, on a fiscal calendar or year.  That fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends the following September 30.  Those appropriations bills must be passed by the end of the fiscal year in order for federal agencies to be able to function on October 1.  It is very rare, however, for Congress to pass all 12 of those appropriations bill by the end of the fiscal year, leaving it with two options: pass a “continuing resolution” that funds the federal agencies at the previous fiscal year’s funding levels, or allow the government agencies the appropriations bills for which have not been passed to shut down.  This is what is known as a “government shut-down.”  The requisite spending bills to keep agencies functioning have not been passed.  Those bills include the salaries of federal employees, money for new equipment, and more.  Without the money provided by those bills, the agencies have no choice but to terminate all but the most essential operations. 

When appropriations bills, as well as other legislation that has not passed for any number of reasons, are not passed by the end of the fiscal year, with the clock ticking, Congress will occasionally bundle those bills together into one large, or omnibus, bill, with the expectation that such a huge piece of legislation will prove sufficiently important to the overwhelming majority of Members of Congress that it will pass and be sent to the President for his or her signature.  In order to maximize the prospect that such a large majority of Congress will support the omnibus bill, many small bills or provisions important to individual members of Congress, especially senators, any one of whom holds the power to derail the process, are added to the larger legislation.  Omnibus bills, consequently, and unsurprisingly, are very large and involve many billions of dollars – hundreds of billions if the defense budget is part of the package.  

Examples of omnibus bills from the past include the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985 (Public Law 99-272), which mandated that employers extend medical coverage to former employees and their families for a specified period of time in order for that employer to continue to qualify for certain tax deductions related to health insurance, and, most recently, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-46), which averted a major government shut down early this year by providing funding for federal agencies usually included in the aforementioned 12 appropriations bills.  The 2014 omnibus bill was particularly noteworthy for having to compensate for passage of any of those 12 bills (normally, at some of the bills are passed on time, especially for the Department of Defense, funding for which is necessary to support troops overseas, including in war zones).  The aggregate total of money provided in the 2014 bill, then, exceeded $1.1 trillion.

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rachellopez's profile pic

rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Usually, Congress is meant to pass 12 separate bills, by October 1st, every year to fund the government and start the fiscal year. However, if Congress cannot pass all 12 bills by the deadline date, which they haven't for 10 years, they have to pass an omnibus bill.

This bill will give the same funds as the fiscal year before and keep the government running while they create a new budget. An omnibus bill will put together all 12 of the bills, that are usually done separately, and is worth billions, or even trillions, of dollars. These bills are usually thousands of pages long and sometimes will contain other pieces of legislation as well.

The House and Senate passed a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill at the end of the fiscal year in 2012. It contained the 9 bills that remained to be passed.

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parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The omnibus bill is simply to keep Congress running as it plans out a budget yet again for another year, for next year, if Congress fails to pass the 12 bills before October 1st, and as mentioned above, this has not been accomplished for the past 10 years.

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