NEWS

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana House members react to $1.7 trillion spending bill

Staff Report

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Louisiana members of the U.S. House of Representatives released statements on the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations $1.7 trillion bill, which ultimately passed by a 68-29 vote.

In a news release, Cassidy stated the omnibus package did not include several legislative priorities for Louisiana, including the Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies & Ecosystems (RISEE) Act, despite strong bipartisan support.

The U.S. Capitol Building is shown Dec. 22 in Washington, D.C. The Senate voted to pass a $1.7 trillion spending package to fund the government through 2023.

"Waiting to take up critical spending bills until days before a Christmas deadline is chaos by design," Cassidy said. "Over a trillion dollars in taxpayer dollars are being spent with little to no notice or public discussion. Hopefully, with Republicans in charge of the House next Congress, this pattern of procrastination will change."

Cassidy stated he was able to secure the inclusion of his Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, legislation to ensure pregnant mothers who decide to remain in the workplace, by preference or necessity have access to reasonable workplace accommodations such as stools if they are not required to stand or extra bathroom breaks. The amendment passed by a bipartisan vote of 73-24, he added.

Sen. Bill Cassidy is shown in a file photo from April 12 at the Hilton Shreveport Hotel.

"The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act should have and could have passed overwhelmingly long ago with an up or down vote. Regardless, this amendment ensured pregnant mothers will have the workplace accommodations they need. This is pro-mother, pro-life and pro-family," Cassidy said.

Congressman Steve Scalise reacts

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) discussed the spending bill on a national television program and released statements from the broadcast.

House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, is shown in a file photo.

"Hundreds of billions of dollars – nobody can tell you what's in it," Scalise said in a Dec. 22 news release. "It was just filed, and they're going to vote on it in [the] dark of night. It would be ironic but appropriate that they were trying to vote on it at 3 in the morning. This is a bad bill for taxpayers. But we've got to change the way that business is done in Washington. "It's what we ran on. We won the House majority on that, but you see them running this thing through by dark of night with billions in things. They're doing border security in foreign countries, and they're impeding border security in our country. Everything about this is the wrong way to go. I hope they reverse course."

Congressman Mike Johnson's reaction

House Republican Conference Vice Chairman Mike Johnson (R-LA), whose district is mostly in northwestern Louisiana, released a statement opposing the spending package.

Republican Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson is shown in a file photo.

"This 4,155 page, $1.7 trillion ‘omnibus’ is one of the worst government funding bills in the history of Congress," Johnson stated in a news release.

"Instead of individual bills to fund each federal agency one by one with a roll call vote for each, all agencies have been lumped together right before the end of year deadline, with dozens of unrelated policies attached to it—electoral college changes, retirement changes, cosmetics regulation, health care policies, salmon fishing regulations, even horse racing rules. All jammed in under the guise of a ‘government funding bill.’"

Congressman Clay Higgins reacts

Congressman Clay Higgins, who represents southwestern Louisiana, released a statement after voting against the spending package.

Republican Louisiana Congressman Clay Higgins is shown in a file photo.

 "Congress is destroying America with crippling debt. The current spending levels are unsustainable, and this last-minute, $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill is the product of a severely broken budget process," Higgins stated. "We must restore fiscal responsibility and return regular order to the appropriations process. I will continue to stand on core principles as we fight to restore fiscal sanity."

Congressman Troy Carter's reaction

Troy Carter, the Louisiana's only Democratic representative in Congress, voted to pass the funding package.

Carter, who represents the second district which spans from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, stated in a news release that more than $35 million in investments will fund 14 community projects throughout his district.

Congressman Troy Carter is shown in a file photo.

"With the passage of this measure, Congress has not only completed its duty in funding the government but has also launched our nation forward into 2023 with the funds it needs to better support and uplift the American People. While I wish it included critical anti-poverty measures like the Child Tax Credit, I do believe this budget is a strong piece of legislation that will undoubtedly power our nation forward," Carter stated.

Sen. John Kennedy, as well as the remaining two of Louisiana's six representatives in the House, Republicans Garret Graves and Julia Letlow, did not immediately release statements on the bill.

Omnibus is highest non-defense funding ever

According to the House Committee on Appropriations website, the omnibus includes the highest level for non-defense funding ever.

It also provides funding to support Ukraine, relief to communities recovering from natural disasters, as well as attempts to lower the cost of living, create better-paying jobs, and increase safety.

The act passed the House by a 225 to 201 vote, with one member voting present.

In total, the regular 12 appropriations bills include $800 billion in non-defense funding, $68 billion (9.3 percent) over last year. This is the highest level for non-defense funding ever and a larger increase in both dollar and percentage than fiscal year 2022. The bills also provide $858 billion in defense funding.

The appropriations bills also include $5 billion in mandatory funding for the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund established in the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the House Appropriations Committee chair, is shown in a file photo with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"I am proud of this bill, which makes critical investments in the programs and services that lower the cost of living for hardworking families, create better-paying jobs, support state and local law enforcement, strengthen our national security, and protect our environment," stated Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro. "The over 7,200 community projects we included will help meet pressing needs in communities all over the nation. At the same time, this bill delivers emergency assistance to help communities recover from natural disasters and to protect the people of Ukraine from Russia’s continued attack."

Gonzales Weekly Citizen and Donaldsonville Chief, part of the USA Today Network of Louisiana, cover Ascension Parish and the greater Baton Rouge area. Follow at facebook.com/WeeklyCitizen and facebook.com/DonaldsonvilleChief.