Understanding the "Omnibus" Appropriations Bill

Jan 14, 2014 | Budgets & Projections

Last night, Congressional appropriators unveiled a $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill that would fund the government for the rest of FY 2014. The announcement comes just in time to avoid a government shutdown after tomorrow; lawmakers are working on a three-day stopgap to buy time to pass the broader package. There are a number of different resources to read more about the omnibus bill, including at the House and Senate Appropriations Committee websites, the CBO, CQ, and Politico.

The agreement adheres to the new spending cap levels enacted in the Bipartisan Budget Act, which repealed a portion of the sequester for FY 2014 and FY 2015. Total base discretionary spending is $1.012 trillion, up from the current $986 billion level and the 2014 sequester level of $967 billion but below the pre-sequester 2014 level of $1.058 trillion. The bill also includes about $100 billion of other spending on the war, disaster relief, and program integrity provisions -- with war spending comprising the vast majority of that amount -- to bring the total to $1.11 trillion.

Compared to FY 2013 post-sequester levels, defense spending remains roughly the same while non-defense spending increases by about $20 billion. Thus, a number of non-defense programs turn out to be winners in the deal compared to current levels. Funding for things like Head Start, the National Institutes of Health, and Community Health Centers got sizeable boosts, in many cases pushing funding above 2013 pre-sequester levels.

Source: CBO, CQ

The bill also includes $92 billion for war spending ("overseas contingency operations"), $1 billion below last year's final levels but more than $20 billion above what CBO assumes (and what we assume) for 2014 in a drawdown scenario. Defense spending in total is almost exactly the same as the current level but almost $40 billion below the pre-sequester 2013 level.

Source: CBO, CQ

Compared to the House and Senate budget resolutions, the omnibus bill provides $30 billion less for defense spending than either budget did. On non-defense spending, the level is $15 billion below the Senate level but $75 billion above the House level. As such, non-defense allocations are generally much closer to the Senate than the House, while defense spending is below both.

Source: CBO, CQ

One important change that was widely anticipated was to make a correction to the military pension cost-of-living adjustment reduction contained in the Bipartisan Budget Act. That change also applied to disabled veterans' pensions by mistake, and the omnibus bill corrects that.

The table below shows funding levels for each of the 12 appropriations bills and war spending (overseas contingency operations), compared to 2013 pre-sequester levels, 2013 post-sequester levels, and the allocations that the House and Senate Appropriations Committees were previously using.

Allocations in Omnibus Appropriations Bill (billions of budget authority)
  2013 Pre-Sequester 2013 Post-Sequester House Appropriations Senate Appropriations Omnibus
Agriculture $20.5 $19.6 $19.5** $20.9** $20.9
Commerce-Justice-Science $50.2 $47.0 $46.8** $52.3** $51.6
Defense $517.6 $486.3 $512.5* $516.6** $486.9
Energy-Water $36.7 $34.3 $30.4* $34.8** $34.1
Financial Services $21.5 $19.9 $17.0** $23.0** $21.9
Homeland Security $39.6 $37.8 $39.0* $39.1** $39.3
Interior-Environment $29.8 $28.2 $24.3^ $30.1^ $30.1
Labor-HHS-Education $156.9 $149.6 $121.8^ $164.3** $156.8
Legislative Branch $4.3 $4.1 $4.1** $4.4** $4.3
Military Construction-VA $71.9 $70.9 $73.3* $74.4** $73.3
State-Foreign Ops $42.1 $40.4 $34.1** $44.1** $42.5
Transportation-HUD $51.8 $48.4 $44.1** $54.0** $50.9
Subtotal, Base Budget $1,043.0 $986.4 $966.9 $1,058.0 $1,012.2
Overseas Contingency Operations $98.7 $93.3 $92.3 $84.5 $91.9
Disaster Relief $11.8 $11.2 $5.6 $5.8 $5.6
Program Integrity $0.5 $0.5 $0 $1.3 $0.9
Total $1,153.9 $1,091.4 $1,064.8 $1,149.6 $1,110.7

 Source: CBO, CQ, Appropriations Committees
*Passed by full chamber
**Passed by Appropriations Committee
^Not passed by Appropriations Committee
Note: Disaster relief does not include one-time Hurricane Sandy relief.

To see supplemental data for the table, click here.