$1T Omnibus Spending Bill Unveiled
January 14, 2014
Lawmakers on Monday night unveiled a $1.012 trillion omnibus spending bill, contained in a 1,582-page document, that leaders plan to bring to a House vote on Wednesday and before the Senate by the weekend.
The bill covers the entire federal discretionary budget for fiscal 2014 and fleshes out the details of December’s budget agreement between Democrats and Republicans. By passing the bill, Congress would ensure the government stays open until Oct. 1.
The two leaders of the appropriations panel on Monday said their bill would ensure there would be no repeat of October's 16-day government shutdown.
"There will be no shutdown," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who predicted a strong bipartisan vote. "The fact is this is a strong bipartisan bill, it is a bicameral bill. We feel very good we were able to accomplish this with a lot of give and take, a lot of compromise on both sides."
Her counterpart said the bill reflected a compromise between the GOP-led House and Democratic-led Senate, adding that it would also continue a "downward trend" in spending by the government.
“The bill reflects careful decisions to realign the nation’s funding priorities and target precious tax dollars to important programs where they are needed the most," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said in a release.. At the same time, the legislation will continue the downward trend in federal spending to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path.
“My committee worked closely with our colleagues in the Senate to find common ground. This bill is a compromise, but it reflects Republican priorities and holds the line on spending in many critical areas,” Rogers said.
The Obama administration also praised the bill in a statement.
"Appropriations Chairmen Mikulski and Rogers deserve credit for working together to craft this legislation in a bipartisan and constructive manner. The Administration urges Congress to move quickly to pass it," White House Budget Director Silvia Burwell said.
To please defense hawks, the bill includes $92 billion in war funding for the Pentagon, about $10 billion more than the Senate sought. This should help the military cope with a base budget decrease to $486 billion, a drop of $30 billion from the Senate's draft bill.
Republican appropriators touted a number of policy riders they were able to get into the bill, including a provision preventing the Export-Import Bank from blocking coal projects and one preventing new restrictions on livestock industry. The bill has no high speed rail funding nor any for the International Monetary Fund or United Nations cultural organization.
On ObamaCare, the GOP notes there is no new funding requested by agencies to implement the law and the so-called ObamaCare slush fund is cut by $1 billion to prevent the administration from dipping into it.
Appropriators had to contend with 134 policy riders on the omnibus, many of which were opposed by Mikulski.
In the end many remained in the bill, including one preventing the National Labor Relations Board from implementing e-Card Check regulaitons for unions and language preventing a ban on incandescent light bulbs.
But Mikulski emphasized that there was nothing in the omnibus that would hold up Obama's signature healthcare law.
"There is nothing in the bill that blocks ObamaCare," she said, however. "ObamaCare lives another day."
She also said there are no "new" abortion riders in the giant bill.
The bill includes one key change to a controversial cut to military pensions that was included in the December budget deal. With the change, disabled veterans and relatives of deceased service members would not see their pensions cut.
But the omnibus does not completely reverse the $6 billion cut agreed to in December, despite demands by scores of lawmakers. Some senators hope to enact that change as part of a seperate unemployment insurance extension.
To keep the government funded while lawmakers consider the omnibus, the House on Tuesday will vote on a 3-day spending bill that would keep the government operating through Saturday night. The Senate will also have to approve that measure before the end of Wednesday.
The series of votes this week creates opportunities for disagreements that could lead to a shutdown, particularly given the secretive talks on the bill and the possibility that members of either party will object to spending provisions.
But neither party seems in the mood to create a huge fight over either the continuing resolution or the omnibus, which is based on spending levels set by a budget deal approved by Congress in December.
Republicans in particular are keen to avoid another shutdown after their approval numbers plummeted during the October shutdown. The GOP now wants to keep the discussion on ObamaCare’s flawed rollout as much as possible.
The budget was approved overwhelmingly on a 332 to 94 vote in the House and negotiators are hoping to recreate the coalition of centrists that led to passage.
While majorities in both chambers look likely to back the omnibus, House and Senate conservatives are warning of opposition and outside Tea Party groups have sought to pressure GOP leaders.
Freedomworks, one of the Tea Party groups, unfavorably compared Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday to his predecessor — Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House Democratic leader.
“What do John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi have in common?” it said in a release. “Boehner is trying to ram an omnibus spending bill through Congress before you and I can find out what's in it. That's the same way Pelosi snuck ObamaCare through Congress."
Conservatives such as Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.) have warned they will oppose the bill.
Mulvaney has said he would oppose any bill that funds the government above $967 billion in annual funding. The budget deal brokered last month sets spending at $1.012 trillion.
Scalise says he’ll only support an omnibus that includes conservative priorities such as defunding ObamaCare.
Wall Street regulators would receive relatively modest funding hikes under the omnibus. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which faces a significantly expanded workload under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, would receive a 9.3 percent boost, or $20 million, to bring its funding up to $215 million.
It had warned this fall it could have to furlough employees this fiscal year for up to 14 days to make ends meet.
The other financial regulator whose budget is set by Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, which received a relatively smaller boost.
That agency got just a $25 million hike to bring its budget up to $1.35 billion – a 1.8 percent increase.
The package eliminates $25 million the SEC had kept in a reserve fund congressional critics decried as a “slush fund” free of oversight, and assigns $44 million of the SEC’s budget to its economic analysis branch.
Republican critics of the agency have long argued it fails to properly weigh the economic impact of new rules, and the regulator has faced legal challenges on that front.
Significantly in the foreign policy arena, the bill prevents the implementation of the UN Arms Trade Treaty, opposed by gun-rights advocates, and adds new restrictions on aid to Afghanistan and Egypt.
The bill continues a ban on the troubled Postal Service ending Saturday mail delivery.