Friday, April 18, 2014

House ready to OK government-wide $1.1T budget

By Alan Fram, Associated Press

Published: Wed, Jan. 15 12:00 a.m. MST

 This Aug. 1, 2013, file photo shows Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., flanked by Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., left, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington. Top congressional negotiators released on Jan. 13, 2014, a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill that would pay for the operations of government through October and finally put to rest the bitter budget battles of last year. The 1,582-page bill was released after weeks of negotiations between House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Senate counterpart Mikulski, who kept a tight lid on the details.

This Aug. 1, 2013, file photo shows Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., flanked by Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., left, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington. Top congressional negotiators released on Jan. 13, 2014, a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill that would pay for the operations of government through October and finally put to rest the bitter budget battles of last year. The 1,582-page bill was released after weeks of negotiations between House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Senate counterpart Mikulski, who kept a tight lid on the details.

(J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Shunning the turmoil of recent budget clashes, Congress is ready to approve a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill for this year, a compromise financing everything from airports to war costs and brimming with victories and setbacks for both parties.

The huge bill furnishes the fine print — 1,582 pages of it — for the bipartisan pact approved in December that set overall federal spending levels for the next couple of years. With that decision behind them and lawmakers eager to use the election year to show they can run a government, there was little suspense about the spending bill's fate.

Reinforcing that was their desire to avoid the potential alternative — a replay of last fall's 16-day federal shutdown, which disgusted voters.

"There's a desire to show people we can do our job," said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

The Republican-led House was expected to approve the sweeping measure Wednesday, with the Democratic-run Senate following suit by the end of the week.

The bill heads off an additional $20 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon's budget — on top of $34 billion imposed last year — and cuts to many domestic programs as well. The reductions were being triggered by a 2011 law that forced the cuts after President Barack Obama and Congress failed to negotiate budget savings.

By its sheer size and detail, the measure had plenty for liberals and conservatives to dislike. Conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action were urging lawmakers to oppose it, but the White House urged its passage.

"We met compelling human needs. We certainly preserved national security," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chief author of the spending bill with her House counterpart, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

She added, "We also met the mandate of the American people who told us to work together."

The measure provided money for Obama's 2010 health care overhaul and his revamping of federal oversight of the nation's financial markets — though not as much as he requested. It continued age-old restrictions on federal financing of most abortions, but lacked new ones. Democrats also blocked GOP-sought curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate utilities' greenhouse gas emissions.

"It's funding Obamacare, and I pledged a long time ago I absolutely wouldn't vote for anything that has financing for Obamacare," said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who said he'd vote "no."

Overall, the measure provides about $20 billion more for defense and domestic programs this year than was spent in 2013, excluding the costs of war and natural disasters. Even so, it still leaves defense and domestic spending on a downward trend since 2010, a number that troubles many Democrats.

"For several years we've been cheating Americans of a number of things we should be doing for infrastructure, science research, education, to make our country stronger," said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who said he hadn't decided how he would vote.

The bill would provide nearly $92 billion for U.S. military operations abroad, mostly in Afghanistan, plus about $7 billion for disasters and other emergencies. That was just slightly less than last year's war spending but about $44 billion less than was provided in 2013 for disasters, after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast in October 2012.

One widely supported provision would roll back a reduction in annual cost-of-living increases for wounded military personnel who retire early or for their surviving spouses. That language was part of the savings included in the budget compromise by Ryan and Murray enacted last month, money that was used to help soften cuts in other programs.

Some Western lawmakers were angry that the bill would block federal payments to communities near government lands to compensate for the taxes the government is exempt from paying them. Top lawmakers promised the payment would be restored in a separate measure.

The Internal Revenue Service, a pariah agency for Republicans after revelations that it targeted tea party groups for tough examinations, would get $500 million less than last year. It also was receiving none of the $440 million extra Obama wanted so the agency could help enforce Obama's health care law, another favorite GOP target.

Democrats won extra money for Head Start's preschool programs, enough to serve another 90,000 young children. The Federal Aviation Administration would get less than Congress enacted last year, but enough money was included to avoid 2013's furloughs and hiring freezes for air traffic controllers.

The FBI won extra money, including almost twice as much to help it conduct background checks on firearms purchasers. The National Institutes of Health would get $29.9 billion, about $1 billion above last year's budget.

Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

Recommended
1. Liberal Ted
Salt Lake City, UT,
Jan. 15, 2014

This is how we pay off the debt. Go through this bill and everything that is just "pork", remove it. If we have surplus money, then that goes towards the principle of our $17,000,000,000,000.00 debt. Do that for the next 50 years and we'll probably have a surplus, where we can discuss additional social programs, helping the poor, helping the disadvantage etc. Who knows, maybe we'll figure out that if we have jobs for 95% of Americans of all abilities, that we can take care of the other 5% that can't do anything for themselves. (I know, it's probably not an exact break down, but I have a hard time believing 50% of this country needs assistance. When good paying jobs can be had.)

2. Thinkman
Provo, UT,
Jan. 15, 2014

Liberal Ted,

Oh how I wish it were that simple!

What one party calls "pork" the other calls "essential." So what is one person's junk is another person's treasure.

We need to remove non-essential regulations that stifle innovation and business and thus job creation to move this economy forward and getting people off the mother pork sow.

3. techpubs
Sioux City, IA,
Jan. 15, 2014

Two thoughts:
1. How much over the actual revenue coming in is this budget?
2. Will all items not addressed in this budget require offsetting cuts so the actual budget remains at 1.1 trillion for the next 2 years?

4. DN Subscriber
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Jan. 15, 2014

The sad, and infuriating, part is that the ONLY actual cut in spending is for military retiree pensions.

This is just WRONG!

I urge Senators Lee and Hatch and Representatives Bishop, Chaffetz, Matheson and Stewart to all vote AGAINST this bloated spending bill. Congress needs to do their job and pass all the 12 individual spending bills, and do it on time, not 4our months after the start of the fiscal year. If they cannot do their jobs, then they should resign!

In the minds of most of the 535 pampered members of Congress it is okay to cut the promised benefits to those who risked life and limb defending our country, repeatedly sacrificing time with their families to be deployed.

But, it is NOT okay to cut welfare benefits for illegals, it is NOT okay to reduce foreign aid to countries which hate us, it is NOT okay to reduce fraudulent "tax credit payments" (wealth transfer) to foreign citizens who work here (even illegally). It is NOT okay to cut studies of the sex habits of squirrels, it is NOT okay to cut subsidies for ethanol fuels which increase food prices and ruin our vehicles.

Disgraceful!

5. Liberal Ted
Salt Lake City, UT,
Jan. 15, 2014

I agree with DN Subscriber. The military pension needs to be restored. That was the promise when soldiers enlisted, we need to hold our end of the bargain.

If the current program isn't sustainable, then they can look at making changes to future recruits. Let them know what they're signing up for, rather than have them serve 30 years to find out there is less for them. It's hard to make adjustments at that point in the career.

Every politician needs to sit down and volunteer to return their paychecks back to the American people. It doesn't have to be a precedence, but, a gesture....since they can't balance the budget and pay off debt then they shouldn't get paid.