Early yesterday morning, the House passed the end-of-year omnibus bill. Although it, like any omnibus bill, had some positive provisions, it contained many harmful ones, such as a repeal of the ban on crude oil exports, a modified version of the surveillance bill CISA, and a provision blocking the IRS, SEC, and White House from issuing rules requiring the disclosure of political spending by corporations. I highlighted some of the other harmful provisions of the bill in my write-up of the House vote yesterday.
After the House finished its vote, message of its passage was relayed to the Senate, which proceeded with a sequence of four votes on the bundled package of the $1.2 trillion omnibus bill and the $680 billion (unfunded) tax extenders bill.
The first was a cloture vote to move forward with the bills. It passed 72 to 26.
23 Republicans—mostly from the right-wing of the party—voted against it. 3 members of the Democratic caucus also voted against it: Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jon Tester (D-MT).
Motion to Table
The next vote was on a motion to table the bill. That measure failed 31 to 67.
The vote was largely similar to the cloture vote. Jon Tester (D-MT), however, voted against the motion to table. And then six Republicans who voted for cloture voted for the motion to table: Richard Burr (R-NC), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dean Heller (R-NV), James Lankford (R-OK), and Rob Portman (R-OH). All seven of these senators were trying to have it both ways on the bill.
The next vote was a vote to waive budgetary discipline—in other words, to allow for the unfunded $680 billion tax extender bill to be bundled with the $1.2 trillion omnibus bill even though doing so would be an alteration of agreed-upon budgetary levels. This was a response to a request by Joe Manchin (D-WV) to split the two bills so that senators could cast their votes on each one separately.
The motion to waive budgetary discipline passed easily 73 to 25.
9 members of the Democratic caucus voted against the motion:
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Angus King (I-ME)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
And then 16 Republicans voted against the motion as well.
The Senate then voted 65 to 33 on the final passage of the bill.
26 Republicans and 7 members of the Democratic caucus voted against the bill. Note that only half of the Republican caucus voted for the bill despite having stuffed it with toxic riders and despite the base of the bill being a continuation of the plague of under-investment and government attrition. Republicans like to put all of their goodies in the bill and then make Democrats do their dirty work—and Democrats, as always, oblige.
The 7 Democrats who voted against the bill were the following:
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Their votes were for different reasons.
Manchin voted against it because of the unfunded tax extenders:
“Instead of voting on just a $1.1 trillion spending bill that helps veterans, middle class families, our defense department, our border security and a host of other valuable federal programs, we were forced to vote on a tax extender package that piles on an additional, unpaid-for $680 billion full of gifts for special interest groups. By needlessly spending more than half a trillion dollars, this tax-extenders bill further harms our financial problems. It is irresponsible, reckless and unethical to further jeopardize our children’s and grandchildren’s future by adding to our nation’s mounting debt. Tom Brokaw famously wrote about the ‘Greatest Generation’ and their contributions to our country and world. With this vote, and the burden we have left for our children and grandchildren, we are quickly becoming the ‘Worst Generation.’
“What is most disappointing, this legislation ignores the needs of hard-working West Virginia families, who already bear too much of the tax burden, and elevates the interests of large corporations and the wealthy. Rather than extending tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, we could be investing this $680 billion to give $5,600 refunds to each household in West Virginia, investing an additional $140 billion to double our U.S. border security, reversing defense cuts by $405 billion, making college debt-free for our West Virginia students or increasing funding for our infrastructure.
Tester’s vote was for largely the same reason:
"There are many things in this bill that I like, many things that I fought for, and even wrote myself. There are things that aren't in this bill that should have been, but instead they got sidelined. Then there is also some crap in here, garbage that should have been tossed out, but wasn't. But when I look at the whole package, my biggest concern is that fact that this bill saddles our kids and grandkids with over $680 billion in additional debt."
And the same goes for Claire McCaskill:
“This package is one fiscally irresponsible step too far. It includes important provisions for programs I support, like a boost to the E/A-18 Growler and F/A-18 Super Hornets production lines in St. Louis. But the bulk of this package is just a series of huge, expensive tax giveaways to the wealthy and special interests—not paid for—that will add significantly to our national debt and hamper our ability to achieve my goal of a simpler, fairer tax code.”
Ron Wyden voted against it because of the CISA rider:
“These unacceptable surveillance provisions are a black mark on a worthy package that contains the biggest tax cut for working families in decades, an accomplishment I fought for in weeks of negotiations.
“Unfortunately, this misguided cyber legislation does little to protect Americans’ security, and a great deal more to threaten our privacy than the flawed Senate version. Americans demand real solutions that will protect them from foreign hackers, not knee-jerk responses that allow companies to fork over huge amounts of their customers’ private data with only cursory review.
“Ultimately, I cannot vote for this badly flawed CISA bill. The latest version of CISA is the worst one yet – it contains substantially fewer oversight and reporting provisions than the Senate version did. That means that violations of Americans’ privacy will be more likely to go unnoticed. And the Intelligence Authorization bill strips authority from an important, independent watchdog on government surveillance, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. This will make it easier for intelligence agencies – particularly the CIA – to refuse to cooperate with the Board’s investigations. Reducing the amount of independent oversight and constricting the scope of the PCLOB’s authority sends the wrong message and will make our intelligence agencies less accountable.”
Fellow Oregonian Jeff Merkley voted against it because of the Big Oil giveaway:
“This omnibus and tax bill contains many good provisions, including those I was proud to fight for on behalf of Oregon in the Appropriations Committee and important tax provisions to help working families that Senator Wyden worked hard to secure. Unfortunately, it has been packaged into a mega-bill that also includes a repeal of the ban on crude oil exports. This repeal is a huge mistake, and because of its inclusion in this package, I could not support this bill today.
“The essential challenge facing human civilization today is to transition quickly from a fossil fuel economy to one built on renewable energy. The United States needs to provide leadership in this vital global effort, as we did in Paris last week. Lifting the oil export ban harms not only our efforts to make that transition but also the credibility of our leadership.”
Bernie Sanders voted against it because of the corporate tax giveaways of the tax extenders bill and the Big Oil giveaway:
“Millions of Americans are unemployed and working longer hours for lower wages, yet this spending package gives more tax breaks to billionaires, encourages large corporations to ship jobs overseas and makes worse an already corrupt campaign finance system. Scientists tell us that we must act immediately to combat climate change, but this bill will lift the crude oil export ban and encourage the burning of more fossil fuels. And 16 million children are living in poverty in this country, but Congress has decided to cut food and nutrition services for our most vulnerable and increase the already bloated defense budget.
“While there are some important and positive provisions in this bill like the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, the truth is we cannot afford another spending package that expands the power and wealth of the billionaire class at the expense of everyone else. Congress must pass legislation that make our rigged political and economic systems work once again for the vast majority of Americans not just the 1 percent.”
Ed Markey voted against it because of the Big Oil giveaway as well as for the CISA rider:
“Everyone wants the government to remain open and working for America. This spending package includes important raises for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other federal agencies working to support America’s middle class and working families. This funding will help us in our efforts to find cures to Alzheimer’s and other deadly diseases, combat climate change and implement a comprehensive solution to the opioid epidemic. The tax provisions contain important tax credits for hard-working American families that I have long supported for middle class families, college students, and businesses.
“But this bill also contains a massive giveaway to Big Oil that would be a disaster for our economy, our national security and our environment. This spending package lifts the longstanding crude oil export ban and gives the oil industry yet another permanent windfall while the wind and solar industries are left with tax breaks that will phase out and then be gone. This spending bill hamstrings our clean energy future to protect our dirty energy past. It will be consumers in Massachusetts and across the country who pay the price, literally, for decades to come.
“Big Oil, aided by Congressional Republicans, made lifting the oil export ban their number one priority in budget negotiations. Lifting the ban is an oil-drenched Christmas present for the American people wrapped by Big Oil and delivered by Congressional Republicans. Using this must-pass spending bill to jam through this massive, permanent giveaway to the oil industry is just plain wrong.
“This bill also contains a provision that sacrifices Americans’ privacy under the guise of security. The flawed Cybersecurity Act could open a floodgate of information sharing that would jeopardize Americans’ privacy and put their personal information at risk.We need stronger privacy protections that would ensure personally-identifiable information isn’t compromised, personal information doesn’t flow freely to the National Security Agency, and provide more limited liability protections to companies that share information with the government.”
However, of the members of the Democratic caucus who voted NO, only Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders were genuine NO votes. The other had voted for cloture and against the motion to table, showing that they wanted it to pass—but just didn’t want their name attached to it.
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