The omnibus spending bill Congress passed includes unexpected provisions like $2 billion for the Space Force, $35 million in sexual-abstinence programs, and a tax break for racehorse owners

The omnibus spending bill Congress passed includes unexpected provisions like $2 billion for the Space Force, $35 million in sexual-abstinence programs, and a tax break for racehorse owners
A view of a socially-distanced Congress in March 2020.Twitter/Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon
  • The long-awaited spending bill passed by Congress includes provisions like $2 billion for the Space Force and a tax break for racehorse owners.
  • The omnibus bill, comprised of a $1.4 trillion spending bill and a $900 billion stimulus plan, was approved on Monday night following months of negotiations.
  • The bill grants most Americans direct payments of $600, with unemployment benefits rising to $300 a week. However, it contains a number of seemingly bizarre provisions.
  • $35 million is to be set aside for sexual-abstinence schemes, and illegal streaming is now a felony. A provision also states that China must have no role in choosing the next Dalai Lama.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted that the Space Force funding was "pathetic," while GOP Rep. Ken Buck tweeted sarcastically: "The COVID relief we've all been waiting for: a tax break for racehorse owners."

The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress on Monday night includes an unexpected array of provisions including $2 billion for the US Space Force, $35 million for sexual-abstinence programs, and a tax break for owners of racehorses.

The House and the Senate approved a $1.4 trillion spending bill and a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package on Monday night following months of fraught negotiations.

US businesses and individuals have for months been clamoring for financial aid in the face of devastating damage done to the economy by the coronavirus pandemic.
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The $900 billion relief package includes $600 direct payments to Americans earning below $75,000, and $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits. The bill also extends the eviction ban that was set to expire on December 31, 2020.

But a number of provisions contained in the spending bill - the longest ever greenlit by Congress - have drawn confusion and outrage.

Among the more obscure provisions, some of which appear totally unrelated to the pandemic, are:
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  • A provision for $2.4 billion to be given to the Space Force.
  • A measure stating that China must have no role in choosing the next Dalai Lama and that decisions on the "reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should be made solely by faith leaders." (Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, is 85.)
  • $35 million in funding for sexual-abstinence programs that "exclusively implement education in sexual risk avoidance (defined as voluntarily refraining from non marital sexual activity.)"
  • Provisions for a tax break for owners of racehorses.
  • Permission granted for the creation of a Smithsonian American Women's History Museum and a National Museum of the American Latino.
  • A provision of $4 billion to the US Navy for weapons procurement.
  • A provision of $500 million to Israel and Jordan.
  • A provision declaring that illegal streaming is now a felony.

You can read the full text of the bill here.

The obscure provisions were ridiculed by politicians on social media.Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted that the $2 billion provision for the US Space Force was "pathetic," while GOP Rep. Ken Buck tweeted sarcastically: "The COVID relief we've all been waiting for: a tax break for racehorse owners."
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Members of the House and Senate had only a handful of hours to read the 5,593-page bill before they were expected to vote on it.

On Monday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the time frame was effectively "hostage-taking" and allowed no time for proper scrutiny.

In the tweet, Ocasio-Cortez shared a link to a news article about the new ban on illegal streaming.
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"This is why Congress needs time to actually read this package before voting on it. Members of Congress have not read this bill. It's over 5,000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours," she wrote.

Read more: Jared Kushner helped create a Trump campaign shell company that secretly paid the president's family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash: source

Some coronavirus-related provisions did not make in into the final bill either.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a provision that now means employers no longer have give paid sick leave to workers who get infected with COVID-19.

The bill passed on Monday comes nine months after Congress approved the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, which included a one-off direct payment of $1,200 to Americans, double what was offered in the bill approved on Monday.

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