Omnibus spending bill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

An omnibus spending bill is a type of bill in the United States that packages many of the smaller regular appropriations bills into one larger single bill that could be passed with only one vote in each house. There are twelve different regular appropriations bills that need to be passed each year to fund the federal government and avoid a government shutdown; an omnibus spending bill combines one or more of those bills into a single bill.

Appropriations process[edit]

Every year, Congress must pass bills that appropriate money for all discretionary government spending. Generally, one bill is passed for each sub-committee of the twelve subcommittees in the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations and the matching 12 subcommittees in the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations.

When Congress does not or cannot produce separate bills in a timely fashion, it will roll many of the separate appropriations bills into one omnibus spending bill.[1] The deadline could be the start of the next fiscal year, October 1, or it could be some other deadline when appropriations would otherwise run out (such as a deadline set by a continuing resolution). The fiscal year of the United States is the 12-month period beginning on October 1 and ending on September 30 of the next calendar year.[2]

Some of the reasons that Congress might not complete all the separate bills include partisan disagreement, disagreement amongst members of the same political party, and too much work on other bills. According to Walter J. Oleszek, a political science professor and "senior specialist in American national government at the Congressional Research Service",[3] omnibus bills have become more popular since the 1980s because "party and committee leaders can package or bury controversial provisions in one massive bill to be voted up or down."[4]

Omnibus bills can also be used to "veto-proof" items, by including measures that the president is expect to veto if they were submitted for signature on their own, but who is willing or pressured into signing an omnibus bill that includes those measures.[5]


Often, omnibus spending bills are criticized for being full of pork (unnecessary/wasteful spending that pleases constituents or special interest groups).[6] The bills regularly stretch to more than 1,000 pages. Nevertheless, such bills have grown more common in recent years.[4]

Omnibus bills are said to "arouse the ire of the rank and file" members of Congress "because typically little time is available in the final days of a session to debate these massive measure or to know what is in them."[1]

In 2009, a $410 billion omnibus bill, the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (H.R. 1105), became a point of controversy due to its $8 billion in earmarks.[7] On March 11, the bill was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama into law as Pub.L. 111–8.[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Oleszek, Walter J. (2007). Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-87289-303-0. 
  2. ^ Heniff Jr., Bill (26 November 2012). "Basic Federal Budgeting Terminology" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Profile of Walter Oleszek". American University. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Oleszek, Walter J. (2007). Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-87289-303-0. 
  5. ^ Oleszek, Walter J. (2007). Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-87289-303-0. 
  6. ^ Omnibus Spending Bill Busts the Budget to Pay for Pork
  7. ^ Senators Parse ‘Earmark Overload’.
  8. ^ HR 1105.