Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced his dissatisfaction with the passage of the seven-bill, $ 820 billion Fiscal Year 2004 omnibus spending package.  The thirteen annual appropriations bills are usually reviewed and passed individually, but for a second year in a row there has been one Omnibus spending package that funds most of the governments operations.  When passing an Omnibus instead of the individual bills, the package tends to include many harmful riders and not focus on fiscal discipline.

“The House of Representatives passed all 13 spending bills individually, but now we are throwing in the towel and taking the easy road by passing one bad bill instead of working with the Senate on individual conference reports,” said Smith. “This is not the way Congress should conduct business on important pieces of legislation.”

Among the many policy riders that Smith objected to was the inclusion of changes to the Labor Department’s overtime regulations, despite the fact that it was agreed to by solid majorities in both the House and the Senate.  Also, a provision supported by the House, Senate and conferees was stripped out behind closed doors that would bar the FCC from allowing media conglomerates to increase the number of stations they own nationally, raising the percentage of American households they reach from 35% to 45%. 

“While I am pleased that the Omnibus bill increased funding for veterans medical programs at a higher level than originally passed by the House of Representatives, it still provides $700 million less than the amount included in the House passed 2004 Budget Resolution and $900 million less than the amount proposed by veterans’ organizations,” Smith said. “The Omnibus also does serious damage to other veteran programs. The most dramatic is the cut in funds needed to speed up the processing of applications for veteran benefits. By shortchanging those who have fought for America, this bill sends a horrible message to those currently deployed throughout the world to safeguard our nation.

Also, the Omnibus bill reduces state and local law enforcement funding levels $500 million below those of FY2003. 

“At a time when our state government is struggling financially we cannot pull federal funds that help secure our borders and our ports,” said Smith.

Finally, one of the most blatant shortcomings in this Omnibus bill is that while funding for “No Child Left Behind” programs is nominally above last year’s level, it is only sufficient to cover inflation and provides local schools with no additional resources to meet federal mandates. The Omnibus provides a total of $24.5 billion for these programs - $7.8 billion below the amount promised for fiscal year 2004 by the “No Child Left Behind” authorization.

“It is a shame that Republicans want to push forward with fiscally irresponsible legislation that not only hurts middle-class Americans, but also strikes at the heart of those most vulnerable, our seniors and children.  This is not the type of leadership Americans expect from their Representatives,” said Smith.