Where Does the Higher Spending in the Omnibus Go?

Policymakers recently announced an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for the remaining six months of Fiscal Year 2018. The bill funds ordinary defense and non-defense spending at $1.208 trillion, which is $143 billion higher than the levels set by the Budget Control Act (BCA) sequester-level caps and $52 billion above the original BCA caps.


Not surprisingly, the deal also relies on a number of gimmicks and workarounds to spend in excess of these caps – the details of which we’ll discuss in future analysis.


Appropriations bills are broken into 12 subcommittees, each dealing with a different part of the budget. The below chart illustrates the proposed spending levels and changes from last year.

Budget Authority Allocations to Appropriations Subcommittees (billions)
Subcommittee FY 17 Enacted Proposed FY 18 Level Percent Change
Agriculture $20.9 $23.3 +11.4%
Commerce, Justice, Science $56.6 $59.6 +5.3%
Defense* $516.1 $589.5 +14.2%
Energy and Water Development $37.8 $43.2 +14.4%
Financial Services and General Government $21.5 $23.4 +8.9%
Homeland Security* $42.4 $47.7 +12.5%
Interior, Environment $32.3 $35.3 +9.2%
Labor, HHS, Education $161.0 $177.1 +10.0%
Legislative Branch $4.4 $4.7 +5.9%
Military Construction, VA* $82.4 $92.0 +11.7%
State, Foreign Operations* $36.6 $42.0 +14.8%
Transportation, HUD $57.7 $70.3 +21.9%
Total* $1.070 trillion $1.208 trillion +12.9%

*In addition to base discretionary appropriations, the measure also includes a total of $78.1 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations spending, $65.2 billion of which is designated for the Department of Defense. Including OCO funds, disaster relief, previously enacted emergency spending, and program integrity, FY 2018 discretionary spending levels would be $1.421 trillion in budget authority and $1.309 trillion in outlays.

Sources: Senate Appropriations Committee, House Appropriations Committee, CBO (FY 2017)CBO (FY 2018).

This spending bill codifies and actually worsens the fiscally irresponsible budget deal agreed to last month.

In a statement, CRFB President Maya MacGuineas said: 

Although 6 months late, we are glad that Congress is finally able to fund the government and that they’ll avoid another shutdown. Frankly, though, it should not have taken a $143 billion spending hike to grease the wheels of the appropriations process and compel policymakers to do their job. These levels of both defense and nondefense discretionary spending are more than Presidents Trump or Obama ever asked for, and in an era of historically high and unsustainable debt, it sets a dangerous precedent.  


With trillion-dollar deficits set to return next year and trillion-dollar interest payments likely to appear within a decade or so, we can’t keep busting the budget with massive omnibus appropriations bills. Instead, we need to couple reasonable discretionary levels with significant new revenue and mandatory spending reductions and reforms. 


We elect our leaders to be careful stewards of taxpayer money. Instead, they just keep on spending it.


For more information about how the process works, see our Appropriations 101 or see our explanation of how the new spending caps are above the levels agreed to in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Stay tuned to our blog for more analysis of the debt-increasing portions of the bill.