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House Appropriators Prepare to Unveil New Spending Plan

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rogers is putting together a package that will combine new Defense and Military Construction-VA bills with a CR covering much of the rest of the government.

The CR will be written to reflect current budget law, Rogers says. It would be set at the $1.043 trillion discretionary spending cap set for the current budget year in the fiscal law (PL 112-240), with the expectation that the sequester may then cut about $69 billion from this spending unless Congress acts to undo the automatic spending cuts. Rogers has said he intends to include very few anomalies in the CR, meaning it will mostly do little more than extend for a second time the fiscal 2012 appropriations (PL 112-55, PL 112-74) that were enacted in late 2011.

Some fiscal hawks believe the use of CRs, with spending plans that keep most agencies operating with no funding increases over the previous year, encourage thrift by forcing agencies to come up new savings.

Joseph Minarik, director of research at the nonprofit Committee for Economic Development, says that’s misguided. Minarik, who was the chief economist for the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration, said agencies can’t take steps that would lead to major savings under the restrictive spending bills.

“You prevent the opportunity to make significant changes in policy, he said. Instead, agencies must continue operating under stale operating instructions, leaving them “doing the same thing over and over again.”

“I think it’s pennywise and pound foolish,” he said.

Among the anomalies the White House requested is language to block a pay increase for senior political officials in the executive branch who would otherwise be in line for an automatic pay raise of 0.5 percent after March 27, a House aide said.

The CR also could bring an official end to a veterans’ job training program that the Obama administration and congressional appropriators agree can be eliminated. The Veterans Workforce Improvement Program, which received $15 million in fiscal 2012, duplicates another program that helps former servicemembers get training and find jobs, the Office of Management and Budget said in its fiscal 2013 budget request. That program was slated for elimination in the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2013 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations that stalled last year.

The current CR kept the program alive, at least theoretically, but no money has been spent on it in fiscal 2013, according to the Labor Department. The White House has asked House and Senate appropriators to shift the funding to other efforts to aid veterans.

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