Boehner, Mikulski among omnibus winners

The Senate’s approval Thursday night of an $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill finally put to bed the government's budget for 2014.

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The 1,582-page bill is still yielding up its hidden details, but clear policy winners have already emerged. Politically, the bill marks a return to power of appropriators and a victory of leadership over insurgents. 

Winners

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)

The biggest winner of the omnibus is the appropriations chairman who negotiated it and was rewarded with 359 votes on the floor.

Rogers opposed October’s government shutdown and has long argued winning conservative policy goals in a divided government is better achieved through negotiation rather than threats. With the omnibus, he has proof. 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

The speaker was forced to bow to the Tea Party in October and go along with its strategy to use a government shutdown to get President Obama to agree to defund the Affordable Care Act.

When that failed, Boehner steered the House toward his preferred method of negotiating a victory on appropriations — deriding Tea Party groups that pushed the shutdown strategy along the way. With overwhelming votes on both the budget deal and omnibus, Boehner can argue his strategy is bearing fruit. 

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)

Mikulski was able to protect Democratic priorities like Head Start and medical research and got most of the 134 policy riders the GOP was demanding out of the bill. While funding for ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank is less than Democrats want, the signature Obama achievements can go forward.   

Defense contractors

Defense faced a $54 billion cut under sequestration, leading contractors to fear programs would be canceled. The omnibus reduces the cut to $30 billion and includes another $6 billion in war funding. All major weapons systems procurement requests were fully funded, including Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system in history. Also fully funded were General Dynamics's M1 Abrams tank program for the Army. The bill prevents the Pentagon from retiring Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk Block 30 drones.

Wall Street  

Wall Street regulators did not get the money they wanted to expand regulation under a new omnibus. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission faces a significantly expanded workload under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, but got only a 9.3 percent boost in funding. Likewise, the Securities and Exchange Commission faces a heavy workload but got just $25 million added to its $1.35 billion – a 1.8 percent increase. 

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)

The omnibus makes it easier for Lucas to pass a farm bill. Western members wanted the omnibus to reinstate funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program that sends money to local governments in areas where the federal government owns most of the land, thereby limiting property tax revenue. House leaders promised this would be taken care of in the farm bill and Lucas was all too happy to comply, knowing this adds momentum to passing the farm bill in late January. 

The coal industry

Rogers made sure the bill contains several crucial pro-coal riders that help out one of Kentucky’s primary industries. The bill stops administration plans to curtail Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation financial help for coal plants overseas. That means more exports of coal and coal technology. 

The Architect of the Capitol

The AOC got a lot of flack a few years back for its over-budget, delayed construction of the Capitol Visitors Center. Despite those problems, it won $39 million in new funding to start a massive CVC repair project that has already gotten national media attention. 


Losers

Tea Party groups  

Heritage Action and the Club for Growth scored the omnibus negatively, while Tea Party Patriots, Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity urged members to oppose it. Instead, House Republicans supported the bill by a 166-64 tally.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius 

The October government shutdown distracted from the flawed ObamaCare rollout, benefiting HHS and its leader. Passage of the omnibus means no shutdown drama until Sept. 30, ensuring Republicans can focus their attacks on ObamaCare and raising the pressure on Sebelius. The deal contains no new funding for ObamaCare and limits Sebelius’s ability to dip into the Prevention and Public Health Fund in order to run the program. It also cuts $1 billion from that fund.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (and the IMF)

Lew pushed hard up until the last minute to get Congress to authorize a $63 billion contribution to the International Monetary Fund. Republicans blocked this in the final omnibus despite administration pleas that the move would only empower countries like China vying to lead the IMF. The GOP argues that the money should be withheld until the United States revises a 2010 reform package at the IMF that dilutes the voting shares of the U.S. at the IMF.  

Military pensions and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

McCain and other lawmakers had hoped to reverse a $6 billion cut in the budget deal to military pensions, but were only able to get a small portion reversed, for disabled veterans. McCain also cried “pork” at some protects in the Energy and Water and Defense titles. Finally, McCain was angered about a reported rider in the classified portion of the bill that stops the Pentagon from taking over the CIA’s armed drone program.

The Internal Revenue Service  

The IRS gets $526 million less in the bill than last year’s pre-sequester level despite warnings that level is not sufficient to maintain quality customer service. The bill also contains embarrassing language forbidding the agency from politically targeting people and wasting money on frivolous items like the infamous Star Trek promotion video. 

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) 

Coburn has made going after government waste his signature issue and the rushed omnibus process, closed to amendments, left him out in the cold. Coburn should have more of a chance to go after waste later this year if Congress, as promised, processes all 12 appropriations bills individually and on time for the first time since 1994. 

High-speed rail 

There is no funding for high-speed rail in the omnibus, dealing a serious blow to plans to build a line up and down the California coast. California could apply for grant money included in the bill, but getting it is no sure thing.

Afghanistan, Libya and Egypt  

Billions in foreign aid to these countries will now be contingent on those governments living up to congressional standards. Afghanistan’s government will have to complete a bilateral security deal with the U.S., Egypt will have to take multiple steps toward democracy and Libya will have to cooperate on the Benghazi investigations.