* $967 billion spending cap approved, lowest in a decade
* Republicans shifting limited funds toward defense,
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, May 21 The Appropriations Committee
of the U.S. House of Representatives made clear on Tuesday that
automatic spending cuts will be a recurring nightmare for
Washington as it passed a measure to sharply reduce funding for
government agencies and programs next year.
The Republican-controlled committee approved a $967 billion
discretionary spending cap - the lowest in a decade - for the
2014 fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1. That is an $80 billion
reduction from the current fiscal year.
Government agencies are struggling with $85 billion in
automatic cuts, known in Washington as the "sequester," that
began in March and will last through Sept. 30. The committee's
action assumes that Congress will not act to stop the next
year's installment of $109 billion in cuts.
To make the most of the dwindling discretionary funds for
everything from the military to education and national parks,
the committee is shifting money toward the Republicans'
priorities of defense and homeland security and away from
domestic programs that Democrats favor.
"This is in no way ideal, but this is the hand that
sequestration is dealing us," said Appropriations Committee
Chairman Harold Rogers, adding that the panel is applying cuts
with "sharp scissors and clear heads."
The committee passed the first of its appropriations bills
on Tuesday, providing $73 billion for military construction and
the Veterans Administration, slightly above this year's
On Wednesday, the panel will vote on its $38.9 billion
Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, which is
$981 million above the current post-sequester level but $617
million lower than last year.
Democrats on the committee complained that these shifts will
require domestic spending cuts so deep that some bills, such as
funding for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human
Services, won't win enough support for passage.
"These funding levels are simply not workable," said
Representative Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat.
Although several lawmakers held out hope that a
comprehensive budget deal this year would turn off the automatic
cuts and allow for higher discretionary spending levels, there
has been no movement on Capitol Hill toward that goal in recent
The House panel's actions are also setting up a potential
clash with the Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations
Committee, which is preparing to pass spending bills at a much
higher cap of $1.058 trillion - a level specified in a budget
deal two years ago.
That means even if the House can muster enough support to
pass its appropriations bills with deep cuts, it will then face
a $91 billion difference with the Senate bills, adding to
already deep differences over taxes, spending and a looming
deadline to raise the government's debt limit in the fall.
If Congress fails to approve appropriations bills in time
for the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, it will instead
need another stop-gap funding measure to avoid a government