With a deadline looming at midnight Wednesday for new spending
authority, lawmakers will still need a three-day stop-gap funding
extension to ensure enough time for passage of the spending bill
The measure eases across-the-board spending cuts by providing an
extra $45 billion for military and domestic discretionary programs
for fiscal 2014, to a total of $1.012 trillion. It also provides an
additional $85.2 billion for Afghanistan war funding that is
typically handled off-budget.
The spending measure fills in the details of a budget agreement
passed in December in the aftermath of a 16-day shutdown of many
government agencies in October. The shutdown was prompted largely by
disputes over funding for "Obamacare" health insurance reforms.
Although many programs will get a slight increase over 2013 levels
and avoid steep cuts previously slated for this year, the proposed
bill does not provide any increase for implementation of the
Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature healthcare
According to a House Republican summary, a public health fund will
be reduced by $1 billion to prevent Health and Human Services
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from "raiding" these funds to spend on
Obamacare insurance exchanges.
The chairs of the Senate and House of Representatives Appropriations
Committees said in a joint statement that the deal will eliminate
the economic instability caused by Congress' recent funding battles.
"As with any compromise, not everyone will like everything in this
bill, but in this divided government a critical bill such as this
simply cannot reflect the wants of only one party," Democratic
Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Republican Representative
Harold Rogers of Kentucky said in a statement.
White House Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said the measure
will help fund critical investments in education and infrastructure.
"This legislation adheres to the funding levels in the budget
agreement enacted in December, unwinds some of the damaging cuts
caused by sequestration," she said in a statement.
The military avoids about $22 billion in the across-the-board cuts,
with total non-war spending of about $520.5 billion under the bill,
while agencies focused on domestic programs will get $491.8 billion,
representing an increase of about $22 billion over sequester levels.
But some controversial budget items took a hit. The spending measure
provides no funds for high-speed rail projects, and it again denied
a funding transfer needed to pay for critical reforms to the
International Monetary Fund.
[to top of second column]
MILITARY PENSION FIX
But both Republicans and Democrats touted a provision in the bill
that reverses planned military pension cuts for disabled veterans, a
controversial part of the December budget deal that helped pay for
about $6 billion in new spending. Military retirees of working age
were to see smaller cost-of-living increases in their pensions
starting in 2015 but it was later discovered that the change was
inadvertently applied to disabled veterans and survivors of deceased
veterans as well.
While the spending bill will reverse the cuts for disabled veterans
and survivors, many Republicans in Congress still want to cancel the
cuts for all retired military service members.
Negotiations on the measure bogged down as lawmakers attempted to
attach policy provisions on issues ranging from restricting
abortions to curtailing regulation of carbon emissions. Many of
these were successfully fought off, including new abortion
provisions, Mikulski told reporters.
Democratic aides said the bill includes no new provisions
prohibiting regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, nor forestry
and stream management. They also prevented new gun-rights language
But Republicans did get a policy provision into the measure that
prohibits funding of the Obama administration's "light bulb
standard," which prohibits the manufacture of incandescent light
bulbs in favor of newer technologies that reduce energy consumption.
Passage of the measure would leave just one more significant fiscal
policy hurdle during the current fiscal year which ends on September
30 — an increase in the federal debt limit. This will likely be
needed by March or April to avoid a default on the Treasury's debt
and the resulting market turmoil.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Eric Walsh)
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