| WASHINGTON, March 7
WASHINGTON, March 7 U.S. Senate Democrats'
version of stop-gap government funding legislation will likely
include a new mechanism to give federal agencies more
flexibility to move money between projects and programs to help
ease $85 billion in automatic budget cuts.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski
said on Thursday that she and the top Republican on the panel
were working to build that flexibility into a government funding
extension bill to be introduced next week.
The measure would avert a government shutdown when current
funding runs out on March 27, but would not seek to replace or
cancel the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as a
"sequester" that went into effect earlier this month, Mikulski
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on
Wednesday passed its version of the stop-gap bill to fund
government agencies and programs through the Sept. 30 end of the
The House measure included updates to the appropriations for
the Defense Department, military construction and the Veterans
Administration, which will allow funds from outdated and
unwanted activities to be moved to higher priority projects.
Democrats have welcomed the House vote because it averts a
potential shutdown but say the Republican measure offered little
help to domestic agencies, who are operating on old spending
plans passed as long as 18 months ago.
Mikulski, who represents Maryland, said that her bill would
also include "non-controversial" appropriations updates for the
Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, State and Homeland Security
departments. There also will be other, targeted funding
adjustments, but she declined to give details.
But she said the panel is working on a new enhancement that
would grant authority to all departments the ability to transfer
funds between budget accounts and programs - a significant
change that would allow agencies to move money from
administrative accounts to front-line activities.
With almost no activity in Congress to stop the $85 billion
in cuts that have been triggered, that change, if adopted, could
help ease disruptions of key services or temporary layoffs of
"It gives them breathing room," Mikulski said of government
The so-called "enhanced transfer and reprogramming
authority," however, would be temporary and subject to
congressional approval. Details were still being worked out, but
Mikulski said agencies would have to submit their requests to
the House and Senate Appropriations committees before they could
shift any funds.