It's cramming time for Congress as lawmakers will spend the next two days scouring—and then likely voting on—a $1.013 trillion, 1,600-page spending bill released on Tuesday night after months of bipartisan negotiations.
The House and Senate must act to fund the government by midnight on Thursday to avoid a shutdown. In classic congressional fashion, appropriators posted their enormous bill, which is replete with key policy provisions negotiated behind closed doors, just over 48 hours before the deadline, leaving little time for debate or amendments.
"I wish it were done last week, but it wasn't, so here we are," Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday, dismissing concerns about the quick turnaround.
With barely any notice, for example, Congress is poised to all but overturn the will of voters in the District of Columbia by blocking funding for the city to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana under a ballot initiative approved last month. And although it has nothing to do with the budget, authors of the bill tucked in a provision that dramatically expands the amount of money wealthy contributors can give to political parties.
While Boehner and House GOP leaders have championed their ban of congressional earmarks criticized as porkbarrel spending, the last-minute policy provisions—known inside the Beltway as "riders"—are subject to the same negligible amount of public debate. The speaker defended their inclusion nonetheless. "All of these provisions in this bill have been worked out in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion or they wouldn’t be in the bill," Boehner told reporters.