President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion-plus infrastructure proposal is what politicos called an omnibus bill. This means it’s a proposal that combines a host of wide-ranging issues into a single bill. Joe Biden’s proposal which he calls the ‘American Jobs plan’ covers issues that range from roads and bridges to housing tax hikes and eldercare. The advantage of an omnibus bill is that it might be an effective way to legislate since Congress has to pass just one bill to get a lot of things done. However, the disadvantage is that when a bill is too large, there is less focus on each aspect of the bill.
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The president isn’t alone in this ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach to enacting legislation. Both republicans and democrats have done it in the history of American politics. In its first-ever session in 1789, Congress enacted a catch-all spending measure. In 1986, the Combined Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act was signed by Reagen. President Donald Trump signed the omnibus appropriation bill, which ran to over 2,000 pages and had upward of 30 sections.
The problem with omnibus bills is that they give Congressional leaders a chance to rally their caucuses along partisan lines. Since the bills cover such a wide range of issues, members of Congress can keep defending their votes. They may focus on an issue that benefits their district and at the same time rail against what doesn’t. Many presidents have faced this problem, especially with an evenly divided Congress. Biden’s Jobs Bill might just face it too.
As it currently stands, the bill is jam-packed with democratic priorities but also has bipartisan policy goals such as rebuilding roads. Some Democratic senators may voice objections to supporting measures that don’t allow for Republican votes. This will result in one of two scenarios. One, Biden will have to get 60 votes on a pared-down proposal. Two, he will have to work with Democrats to use the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. This may involve adding or subtracting provisions in his law. In other words, President Biden may win it all when his bill passes into law. Or he might just get nothing at all.