$1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Would Finalize Bipartisan Budget

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerpelosi/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerpelosi/

The bipartisan budget sketched out in December has been filled in, with the Congressional Appropriations Committees agreeing to a $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and House Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) announced the omnibus deal late Monday night.

“We are pleased to have come to a fair, bipartisan agreement on funding the government for 2014,” the Chairs said in a joint-statement. “Although our differences were many and our deadline short, we were able to draft a solid piece of legislation that meets the guidelines of the Ryan-Murray deal, keeps the government open, and eliminates the uncertainty and economic instability of stop-gap governing.”

According to the statement, the bill also has a “bipartisan fix to repeal last year’s cut to COLAs for disabled military retirees and survivors.” In a separate statement, Mikulski said she was pleased they “were able to right a wrong in this bill and keep faith with our veterans.” The House summary of the bill highlighted this provision too, explaining that cost of living benefits will not longer be temporarily reduced for surviving families, and disabled veterans.

But other provisions are not likely to elicit such harmony, and the Chairs brought attention to this in their statement. “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.” They go on to say that the bill “is a good, workable measure that will serve the American people well,” and hope their Congressional colleagues will support it.

The House summary makes note that there will be no new funding for Obamacare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid — the agency with most discretion over the law — was allocated $3.7 billion. This is equal to sequester levels, and any additional funding to the agency cannot be used for the healthcare law. Funds for new education programs proposed by the White House have also been denied. Instead, existing programs will be expanded. The total education budget is $70.6 billion — $739 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. The summary provided by the Senate states that education funding will include $8.6 billion, an increase of $1.025 billion, for Head Start.

In his 2013 State of the Union, President Obama outlined an ambitious early childhood education program, using Race to the Top. “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on,” Obama said. His address mentioned Race to the Top, however, it is Head Start that received the bulk of early childhood education funding. The Senate summary says $500 million will be used for an expansion of early Head Start, a program benefiting children from birth to age 3.

The Defense budget remained at current operating levels, $486.9 billion. This includes the 1 percent military pay raise requested by Obama. “Budget shortfalls threatened the readiness of combat units, caused an inefficient allocation of resources, delayed important modernization programs, and disrupted routine work by furloughing thousands of civilian personnel,” the Senate summary says. This will be fixed by targeting areas, and balancing the approach used to allocate spending.

The next step will be for the House and Senate to pass the bill. To ensure there is no shutdown budget battle, the House will vote Tuesday on a stop-gap measure to extend the deadline from Wednesday to Sunday, and give the bill time to pass both chambers. Rogers used the introduction to the bill to assure Republicans that the bill “reflects Republican priorities and holds the line on spending in many critical areas.

Mikulski used a similar opportunity to express that this bill will erase recent budgetary issues. ”For the first time since 2011, no mission of our government will be left behind on autopilot,” Mikulski said. ”This agreement shows the American people that we can compromise, and that we can govern. It puts an end to shutdown, slowdown, slamdown politics.”

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