The Corner

Killing Two Birds in the Omnibus Bill with One Stone

According to Congressional Quarterly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) insists that the Omnibus bill must pass without changes. She likes the higher levels of spending and the earmarks in the bill so much that she has threatened to push for a freeze in government spending for all of fiscal 2009 if the Senate cannot clear the omnibus in its current form.

While this might be a scary scenario for the big spenders in the Senate, it’s a great opportunity for Republicans to kill two birds with one stone since any success in amending the Omnibus bill could trigger the spending freeze.

Several GOP amendments will be considered this afternoon, including a new amendment by Senator McCain to prohibit the funding of omnibus earmarks unless they are in the statutory bill text. A vast majority of earmarks are listed in the bill’s statement of managers. If the amendment is adopted, most earmarks in the bill wouldn’t be funded.

Other amendments include:

• Strike a provision to zero out funds for the District of Columbia school voucher program after the 2009-10 school year, unless the program is reauthorized by Congress and approved by the D.C. government.

• Prohibit state attorneys general who hire outside legal experts and witnesses in civil actions from paying them through a contingency fee agreement where they would receive a share of any award or settlement.

• Bar the Federal Communications Commission from spending funds to reinstate the “Fairness Doctrine,” essentially stopping efforts to resurrect the defunct policy that required broadcasters to present balanced viewpoints.

• Try to prevent U.S. funds from getting into the hands of Middle Eastern terrorists and curb smuggling across the Egyptian border

• Remove language in the omnibus that would change the formula for how HIV/AIDS funding would be distributed.

• Extend for an additional five years E-Verify, a voluntary, Internet-based program to determine if employees are legally entitled to work in the United States, by Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.).

Veronique de Rugy is an economist at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.