By David Lawder
WASHINGTON Jan 13 Negotiators in the U.S.
Congress on Monday unveiled a $1.1 trillion spending bill that
aims to prevent another government shutdown while boosting
funding levels slightly for military and domestic programs - but
not for "Obamacare" health reforms.
With a deadline looming at midnight Wednesday for new
spending authority, lawmakers will still need a three-day
stop-gap funding extension to ensure enough time for passage of
the spending bill this week.
The measure eases across-the-board spending cuts by
providing an extra $45 billion for military and domestic
discretionary programs for fiscal 2014, to a total of $1.012
trillion. It also provides an additional $85.2 billion for
Afghanistan war funding that is typically handled off-budget.
The spending measure fills in the details of a budget
agreement passed in December in the aftermath of a 16-day
shutdown of many government agencies in October. The shutdown
was prompted largely by disputes over funding for "Obamacare"
health insurance reforms.
Although many programs will get a slight increase over 2013
levels and avoid steep cuts previously slated for this year, the
proposed bill does not provide any increase for implementation
of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature
healthcare reform law.
According to a House Republican summary, a public health
fund will be reduced by $1 billion to prevent Health and Human
Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from "raiding" these funds
to spend on Obamacare insurance exchanges.
The chairs of the Senate and House of Representatives
Appropriations Committees said in a joint statement that the
deal will eliminate the economic instability caused by Congress'
recent funding battles.
"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,"
Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Republican
Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky said in a statement.
White House Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said the
measure will help fund critical investments in education and
"This legislation adheres to the funding levels in the
budget agreement enacted in December, unwinds some of the
damaging cuts caused by sequestration," she said in a statement.
The military avoids about $22 billion in the
across-the-board cuts, with total non-war spending of about
$520.5 billion under the bill, while agencies focused on
domestic programs will get $491.8 billion, representing an
increase of about $22 billion over sequester levels.
But some controversial budget items took a hit. The spending
measure provides no funds for high-speed rail projects, and it
again denied a funding transfer needed to pay for critical
reforms to the International Monetary Fund.
MILITARY PENSION FIX
But both Republicans and Democrats touted a provision in the
bill that reverses planned military pension cuts for disabled
veterans, a controversial part of the December budget deal that
helped pay for about $6 billion in new spending. Military
retirees of working age were to see smaller cost-of-living
increases in their pensions starting in 2015 but it was later
discovered that the change was inadvertently applied to disabled
veterans and survivors of deceased veterans as well.
While the spending bill will reverse the cuts for disabled
veterans and survivors, many Republicans in Congress still want
to cancel the cuts for all retired military service members.
Negotiations on the measure bogged down as lawmakers
attempted to attach policy provisions on issues ranging from
restricting abortions to curtailing regulation of carbon
emissions. Many of these were successfully fought off, including
new abortion provisions, Mikulski told reporters.
Democratic aides said the bill includes no new provisions
prohibiting regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, nor
forestry and stream management. They also prevented new
gun-rights language from inclusion.
But Republicans did get a policy provision into the measure
that prohibits funding of the Obama administration's "light bulb
standard," which prohibits the manufacture of incandescent light
bulbs in favor of newer technologies that reduce energy
Passage of the measure would leave just one more significant
fiscal policy hurdle during the current fiscal year which ends
on Sept. 30 - an increase in the federal debt limit. This will
likely be needed by March or April to avoid a default on the
Treasury's debt and the resulting market turmoil.