Congress Unveils $1.1 Trillion Plan to Fund Government

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 09:56 AM

 

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House and Senate lawmakers agreed to a bipartisan compromise to fund the U.S. government through Sept. 30, unveiling the measure days before financing for federal agencies is scheduled to lapse.

The $1.01 trillion measure would fund the troubled health care law and individual agencies, plus add separate war financing to bring the total to $1.1 trillion. Republican efforts to derail some regulatory initiatives were left out of the measure to ensure passage and avoid a repeat of the 16-day partial government shutdown in October.

The bill, announced last night by lawmakers including House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, probably will reach the House floor tomorrow, Rogers said.

“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,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We believe this is a good, workable measure.”

Negotiators had agreed on the $1.01 trillion base spending level in December as part of a two-year, bipartisan budget agreement. The measure unveiled late yesterday would support defense spending at about $573 billion for the current fiscal year, with $85.2 billion for the war in Afghanistan, about $2 billion less than in fiscal year 2013.

‘Step Forward’

The bill “represents a positive step forward for the nation and our economy,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement. President Barack Obama’s administration “urges Congress to move quickly to pass it,” she said.

Government funding runs through tomorrow, so lawmakers also plan to pass a separate three-day bill at current funding levels to push the deadline to Jan. 18. That would give lawmakers enough time to enact the comprehensive legislation without risking a government shutdown.

The House plans to vote on the stopgap measure today.

In an effort to win support from Democrats, House appropriators left out contentious policy provisions such as one blocking Obama’s 2010 health-care law.

Republican efforts to thwart the health-care law were at the center of a spending-legislation dispute that caused the October shutdown.

“There is nothing in the bill that blocks Obamacare,” Mikulski said.

IRS Funding

The measure gives the Internal Revenue Service about $11.2 billion, leaving the agency’s budget little changed and finding a middle ground between the more than $2 billion reduction sought by House Republicans and the more than $1 billion increase sought by Obama.

The bill bars the IRS from targeting groups based on their ideological beliefs, in response to the agency’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups seeking nonprofit status. It doesn’t include Republican-backed limits on the tax agency’s paying bonuses or implementing the 2010 health-care law.

IRS officials have said that budget cuts would limit their ability to answer taxpayers’ calls and prevent tax cheating. Recent data showed the audit rate for individuals hitting the lowest point since 2005.

The measure omits several regulatory changes sought by House Republicans, including to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions.

Republican’s Provisions

“We tried to keep those political riders out,” said Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Senate Republican appropriator.

Even so, Republicans were able to place several provisions they’ve sought into the final measure.

The Office of Management and Budget would have to study the cost of implementing Wall Street regulatory changes mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. Lawmakers preserved language that would block federal funding for abortions. The legislation would also prevent Washington, D.C., from spending any money to legalize marijuana.

Another provision would stop Vice President Joe Biden and other senior officials from getting a pay raise.

Mikulski said negotiators agreed to details on all 12 sections of the bill, avoiding the need to write any of them as stopgap spending measures continuing the prior year’s funding.

The Senate plans to take up and pass the short-term extension once the House completes action. Any senator could delay passage of either measure for about four days, though no senators have said they will do so.

Budget Deal

The 1,582-page bill sets fiscal year 2014 spending at $1.012 trillion, in line with the enacted December deal. The House Rules Committee plans to meet today to set floor debate procedures for the measure.

“It’s a really good deal,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican. “The Senate and the House got together in a good way.”

Lawmakers struggled to trim more than $25 billion from military spending amid lobbying from defense contractors including Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and General Dynamics Corp. The top customer for each of the top 10 federal contractors was a unit of the Department of Defense, according to a Bloomberg Government compilation of contracting records.

The bill would cut funding for buying and developing new and upgraded weapons systems and defense technologies, though it would reverse benefit cuts for disabled veterans under the December budget deal.

Veterans Benefits

“We came up with a fix for the disability and survivor part, which is a downpayment,” Mikulski told reporters. She referred specifically to disabled veterans of working age and survivor benefits that were reduced as part of a package of budget cuts included in the December measure to pay for relief from automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.

Several lawmakers said that one of the last unresolved issues had been a proposed $63 billion contribution to the International Monetary Fund’s permanent capital fund. The IMF funding wasn’t in the final legislation, according to a summary provided by the House Appropriations Committee.

The Treasury Department has been seeking for months to boost the U.S.’s share, or quota, at the Washington-based IMF by shifting about $63 billion from an existing credit line. The U.S. is holding up the 2010 agreement by all of the IMF member countries, then totaling 187, to double the fund’s lending capacity to about $733 billion.

Holly Shulman, a Treasury spokeswoman, said in a statement that the department was disappointed that Congress had failed to include the quota funding, adding that “the IMF is critically important to U.S. economic and national security interests.”

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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