Waiting for an Omnibus to Arrive

Lawmakers show off their acumen for theater on the floor

The Capitol is wrapped up in trying to pass the omnibus this week, the long-delayed conclusion to the fiscal 2018 spending process. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Welcome to Political Theater, Roll Call’s newsletter and podcast on the spectacle of politics and how it fits, or doesn’t, into the nation’s culture. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Lessons from Epidemics Past

The slow-rolling public health disaster that is the opioid epidemic is finally getting Washington’s attention. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump trekked to New Hampshire to tout his plan to address the crisis and the omnibus spending bill slogging through Congress puts some real money into plans to help those in need. 

With that in mind, Reid Wilson, national correspondent for the Hill, came on the latest Political Theater podcast to discuss what public officials can learn from the way the U.S. government successfully tackled a recent epidemic — the ebola virus — and how understanding root causes is key to getting it right. 

Some Real Political Theater on the Floor

 Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speak to reporters following a meeting of House and Senate leaders in Speaker Ryan's office on the $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., secured a lot of Democratic priorities in the omnibus. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Look no further than the floors of Congress for a good dose of political theater this week. 

As the House got ready to consider the rule for the $1.3 trillion spending package on Thursday morning, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter trumpeting the many, many wins for her party in the package, which she had painstakingly helped negotiate, from domestic spending to eliminating poison pills to all sorts of goodies. 

Then she asked them to vote “no” on the rule, which, if it failed, would stop the legislation dead in its tracks, because the GOP leadership had not committed to considering legislation that would address those protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

“BECAUSE THE SPEAKER CONTINUES TO REJECT OUR REQUEST FOR A VOTE ON THE DREAM ACT, I URGE A NO VOTE ON THE RULE,” she wrote, adding, “Each of us must now assess the Omnibus and weigh its equities.”

Her lieutenant, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, took to the floor to taunt Republicans for not reading the 2,220-plus page bill. 

But with so many Democratic priorities reflected in the bill, it is realistic to surmise that Democrats and their leaders know this thing is going to pass eventually, and a no vote on the rule gives them the chance to go back to angry voters, like those supporting a DACA fix, and say they tried. 

Republicans engaged in their own legislative horseplay, with the Freedom Caucus and other conservatives vowing to oppose the legislation, but allowing its members to support the rule. As time expired, Republicans gaveled the final result 211-207, with several members still not having voted. 

All in all, everyone knew where this was going, but they all played their parts. The only thing missing was Casablanca Police Captain Renault blowing a whistle and being “shocked, shocked” that an omnibus was going on here. 

The Song Remains the Same

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 19: Protesters erect a cardboard wall in front of the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas during the Culinary Union's Wall of Taco Trucks protest the day of the final Presidential debate in Las Vegas on Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Protesters erect a cardboard wall in front of the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If you’ve been to a Trump rally, you’ve heard the song. A lot. 

Dating back to the 2016 campaign, the president’s rally planners, or the president himself, love to play the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.“ 

It’s kind of an odd song to play at a rally where the assembled masses are promised everything from Mexico paying for a border wall to Hillary Clinton being jailed. But hey. 

So it seems appropriate that, even with the mega-spending bill being larded up with every little and large priority, congressional negotiators did not grant the president some of his very high-profile asks, like $25 billion in walking around money for the wall. 

Roll Call White House Correspondent John T. Bennett breaks down what Trump got and what he did not. 

Trey, Trey Again

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 26: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, leaves the Capitol after the House passed a fiscal 2018 budget resolution on October 26, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., is eyeing his exit from Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When the next congress convenes in January, it will be without one of its most colorful lawmakers, Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican from South Carolina, man of many oversight duties, legislative priorities, sunglasses, hairstyles and stories. 

Roll Call’s Stephanie Akin profiles him and looks at his many layers, catching up with colleagues who see him on one hand as a straight shooter and on the other hand a fierce partisan. 

The Kicker

UNITED STATES - MARCH 21: A six-foot plus tall snowman stands on the west side of the Capitol as kids and adults sled in the background during the snow storm in Washington on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Even this snowman gives the shrug emoji as we all wait for Congress to wrap up its six-month late fiscal 2018 appropriations process. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Kicker Bonus

Watch: Flake and Booker’s Snowball Duel

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.