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Senate Faces Expanding Complications As Debate Over Continuing Resolution Begins

Democrats are unhappy with several aspects of the bill — it does not fund the Affordable Care Act or the financial regulatory overhaul (PL 111-203), and it keeps the sequester in place.

But those provisions also will draw Republican votes.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said he was glad to see that the measure would preserve the spending cuts to be made by the sequester, which effectively would cap regular fiscal 2013 discretionary spending at about $984 billion. “We’re still studying it, but I am pleased with the overall top-line number,” he said.

Some of the planned amendments may split senators more along regional rather than partisan lines. Jerry Moran of Kansas, a GOP appropriator and the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he will offer an amendment to restore funding to the Federal Aviation Administration to avert cuts to 147 air traffic control towers in rural areas, seeking to shift money for this purpose from unexpended funds at the Department of Transportation.

Many liberals will support a bid by Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs both the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, to provide relatively big boosts to the two largest education programs. Title I, for school districts with a large percentage of low-income students, would get $107 million more, while the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would get $125 million more. A third program that helps students from disadvantaged communities get into college, TRIO, would also get a $14 million boost in the Harkin’s amendment.

None of those education programs received increases in the CR proposed by Mikulski and Shelby.

Meanwhile, a senior Republican senator said Coburn and other Republicans were pushing for a vote on a budget point of order by Michael D. Crapo of Idaho for a provision in bill that would provide for a change in mandatory program spending to allowing mandatory funds to be shifted out of a crime victims compensation fund to other discretionary programs.

Anomalies Ahead

Unable to complete a full set of new spending bills, Senate appropriators also have included a wide array of exceptions to address pressing needs in the stopgap continuing resolution section of their proposed final fiscal 2013 package.

More than 80 so-called anomalies were included in the Senate’s expanded and altered version of a House-passed fiscal 2013 spending package, according to a summary from the Appropriations Committee. The package includes five fiscal 2013 spending bills: Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and then a CR for the agencies and programs covered by the unfinished seven bills.

This effectively keeps agencies in a kind of budget limbo, running through the end of September through an extension of fiscal 2012 appropriations (PL 112-55, PL 112-74).

Many of the anomalies are the same as the ones included in the House’s fiscal 2013 CR, such as language needed to continue a pay freeze for federal employees and to give the office of the Architect of the Capitol the authority to transfer $61.2 million within its accounts for work on the Capitol Dome.

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