House appropriators are proposing a final fiscal 2013 spending package that would effectively cap federal operating expenses at $982 billion, while giving military and veterans programs new flexibility to cushion the effects of the sequester’s automatic cuts.
The House is expected to vote Thursday on the measure (HR 933) unveiled Monday, which combines Defense and Military Construction-VA bills with a stopgap continuing resolution covering most of the rest of the federal agencies. That will give military and veterans programs greater ability to move around the funds that are provided, although it doesn’t protect them from the cuts through the sequester.
“The legislation will avoid a government shutdown on March 27, prioritize DOD and veterans programs and allow the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said.
The Kentucky Republican set top-line discretionary spending at the $1.043 trillion level mandated by the fiscal agreement the parties reached at the start of the year, but the spending is then cut back by the sequester that kicked in March 1.
Although Senate Democrats still may take a different approach with the CR by adding in separate measures beyond defense, neither side appears to be eager to stir a confrontation by doing much more about the sequester or potentially creating a new shutdown threat. The president and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were among those who last week predicted new fiscal 2013 appropriations would be cleared before the current six-month fiscal 2013 continuing resolution (PL 112-175) expires March 27.
The bill would provide $2 billion more than the president requested for defense in non-war funding, but the $518.1 billion in annualized spending would be about equal to the fiscal 2012 enacted level.
Otherwise, Rogers has included dozens of special exceptions, known as anomalies, in the CR, a routine practice when stopgap measures are used to fund much of the federal government for months at a time. These are intended to allow changes from the current law to address what are considered urgent needs, such as running already overcrowded federal prisons and maintaining staff levels for border protection and at the FBI.
Among the anomalies included in Rogers’ CR is a bid to provide roughly $2 billion more than the current level for embassy security, which supports the full fiscal 2013 request and increased security needs identified after the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya. Additional funding is also intended for keeping new weather satellite programs on track.
It remains unclear how the Senate will proceed with the House bill if it is passed. The easiest path to preventing a government shutdown would be for the Senate to clear the House’s bill unchanged, but many Democrats balk at this thought. And, if the House passes Rogers’ bill March 7, there still would be time to proceed with a final fiscal 2013 package that gives many domestic agencies the same kind of aid offered to the military and veterans programs in managing the sequester.