Congress reached a deal on Sunday to pass a $2.3 trillion spending bill that includes $900 billion worth of COVID-19 relief for families and businesses. But until Monday afternoon, no one knew for sure what was actually in the bill.
Well, the 5,593 page behemoth has finally been released to the public, as well as to the curious legislators who are supposed to vote on it. Just printing this monstrosity was a nearly fatal task: The file containing it was so unwieldy that it kept crashing Congress's computers.
The main thrust of the COVID relief package is to provide $600 per person to people below a certain income threshold and to expand the Paycheck Protection Program for various businesses.
But that's not all the spending bill does—not by a long shot.
For instance, one section of spending the bill also instructs the Smithsonian Institution to create two new identity-based museums: one for women, and one for Latinos. (The legislation refrains from using the phrase "Latinx.") The bill also takes a position on the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, expressing that in the view of the U.S. government, "the wishes of the 14th Dalai Lama, including any written instructions, should play a key role in the selection, education, and veneration of a future Dalai Lama." The bill includes a provision prohibiting any federal funds from being used by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an activist group that no longer exists in the United States. It attempts to normalize U.S. foreign relations with Sudan, criminalizes illegal streaming, and creates a plan for building a Theodore Roosevelt presidential library in North Dakota.
In short, this is an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink bill. It contains dozens if not hundreds of policy proposals that ought to be considered on their own merits, not attached to pandemic relief and smuggled into law by a desperate and confused Congress that has no idea what it's voting for.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) complained, quite reasonably, that it's crazy to expect legislators to commit to voting for a bill they scarcely have time to read.
Congress is expected to vote on the second largest bill in US history *today* - $2.5 trillion - and as of about 1pm, members don't even have the legislative text of it yet.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 21, 2020
Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) has for years complained about legislators being expected to vote for bills they haven't even read. He echoed Ocasio-Cortez's concerns:
For half a year, congressional leaders refused to put any legislation on the floor to be considered AND scrutinized AND amended. Now, they release a 5,593-page bill with no opportunity to read it, let alone amend it. No responsible legislator should vote for such a thing.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) December 21, 2020
How bloated is this bill? It literally needed to be brought into the chamber on wheels. This is the appalling state of our national law-making entity.
Correction: This post original described Congress as having reached a deal for $2.5 trillion worth of COVID relief. The bill includes $900 billion worth of COVID aid as part of a larger $2.3 trillion spending bill.