Congress unveils details of massive $1.4T omnibus spending package

The $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package is packed with provisions that set spending and policy priorities for a variety of federal agencies in 2021. 

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This story was updated on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at 9 a.m. to reflect the House and Senate votes on the omnibus and COVID-19 relief package. Find the latest updates on those votes here.

After months of negotiations that spilled into the weekend, Congress has at last unveiled the details of a massive, $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package and $900 billion COVID-19 relief measure.

The rule for the spending and relief measure also included a seven-day continuing resolution, which the House and Senate passed Monday night. The rule built in a buffer for Congress to fully sign off on the full omnibus and relief package, print it and later send it to the president for his signature while avoiding a government shutdown. President Donald Trump signed the seven-day continuing resolution into law shortly after midnight.

The full bill itself is nearly 5,600 pages long. The House approved the $2.3 trillion spending and relief package Monday night in two separate votes.

The Senate passed the omnibus and COVID-19 relief package shortly before midnight with a 91-7 vote. Trump is expected to sign it later.

The massive bill contains a silent endorsement of the president’s 1% across-the-board federal pay raise for civilian employees in 2021, as well as a provision giving federal workers more time to repay deferred payroll taxes next year.

Much to the disappointment of some Democrats and federal employee groups, the 2021 omnibus did not include language blocking the president’s Schedule F executive order.

Beyond these key provisions for federal employees, the omnibus is packed with others that set spending and policy priorities for a variety of federal agencies in 2021.

All told, the 2021 omnibus includes $671.5 billion in base defense spending and $656.5 billion in non-defense spending. It also provides for $77 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations spending, plus $3.1 billion in emergency funding to fund agency operations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 omnibus provides $696 billion in new, non-emergency discretionary spending for the Defense Department, a $2.6 billion bump over the previous year’s levels.

It also fully supports a 3% pay raise for military members in 2021.

The Office of Personnel Management will again see more funding in 2021. The agency will receive $36 million more next year to make up for the revenue it lost when it transferred the governmentwide security clearance business to the Defense Department.

The 2021 omnibus also contains a provision requiring OPM to establish a new occupational series for artificial intelligence positions, or update an existing series to more accurately account for those kinds of skills needed in the federal government. In addition, the bill calls on OPM to forecast how many federal employees agencies might need with AI skills in the next two and five years.

As it has in previous years, Congress again attempted to keep OPM as an independent federal agency, blocking a merger with the General Services Administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services is set to receive an additional $2.1 billion in 2021 compared to the previous year, including $56 billion for public health workforce and career development efforts and billions of dollars for various health research initiatives.

The 2021 omnibus also includes $13.5 billion for the Treasury Department, an increase of $429 million over last year’s levels.

The IRS alone will receive $409 million more in 2021 compared to the previous year. All four of the agency’s major accounts will receive funding boosts, including taxpayer services, enforcement and operations support. The IRS will also receive $43 million more in 2021 to modernize its legacy IT systems.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will achieve yet another budget record in 2021, as the omnibus sets aside a total of $243 billion in mandatory and discretionary funding for the agency. At least $87.6 billion of the final total came in the form of advance appropriations from last year.

Specifically, VA will receive $90 billion in 2021, which congressional appropriators said will provide health care services for roughly 7.1 million veterans.

The measure also includes $3.2 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration to address its disability claims backlog.

The department’s electronic health record modernization initiative will receive an additional $2.6 billion in 2021, as VA continues its plans to deploy the EHR across the enterprise. The omnibus does, however, include a provision making 25% of the funding contingent on the VA secretary’s ability to certify any changes to the deployment schedule in writing before July 2021.

The omnibus also includes $94 billion in advance funding for various VA medical programs in fiscal 2022.

View the full text of the 2021 omnibus and COVID-19 relief package here.

View a summary of the 2021 appropriations provisions here.

Read more about the spending priorities for several other federal agencies here.

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