Chad’s Morning Brief: The Republican Spending Bill and Other Top Stories
Republicans are hoping the budget bill passes but there is opposition out there, and it's not just Democrats who are upset. Here is your Morning Brief for December 11, 2014.
There was a lot of tough talk from Republicans during the election and after about standing up to Obama and stopping out of control government spending. So far, we haven't seen any action on those issues by Republicans. GOP leadership released the $1.1 Trillion dollar spending and according to POLITICO, are hoping for a vote on it by today.
Already, the abundance of policy riders — backed by trucking, mining and securities interests — shows the GOP’s new clout. But the giant measure also reflects a genuine give-and-take with Senate Democrats in hopes of averting a government shutdown veto fight with President Barack Obama.
“The bill will allow us to fulfill our constitutional duty to responsibly fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). In her blunter style, his Senate counterpart, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), appealed to Democrats to support the measure.
“In today’s era of slam-down politics, we were able to set aside our differences,” she said. “Working across the aisle and across the dome, we created compromise without capitulation.”
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — herself a veteran of many past spending deals — withheld any decision but said she was “hopeful” she could support the package. “We have confidence in our appropriators as they have over the last weeks sought to negotiate a position that represents the values of our Caucus.”
Prior budget agreements made the task easier since the White House had already agreed to a freeze on domestic appropriations. The Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency, two favorite Republican targets, still face real cuts below current spending. But the broader picture is of a largely flat domestic budget with modest increases for scientific research, hiring more immigration judges or dredging the nation’s harbors.
Where big new money is added, it is largely to meet threats from overseas such as the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa or the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Nothing on the domestic front comes close to the $5.4 billion in emergency funds dedicated to fight Ebola, for example. And where the administration won concessions from Republicans, it was at a price.
After years of effort, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will finally get a substantial increase of $35 million — bringing its budget to $250 million. And the GOP agreed to also bring the much larger Securities and Exchange Commission up to $1.5 billion, a $150 million increase.
But as part of the bargaining, Republicans won an important concession for the financial industry related to “swaps push out” rules for banks under the Dodd-Frank reforms.
Indeed, the policy riders remain a political minefield hidden amid the more than 1,600 pages of bill text. The next few days are sure to be tense as the outside world — and industry attorneys — get to look at what was agreed upon behind closed doors.
A provision blocking the legalization of medical marijuana in the District of Columbia has already drawn outsize interest because of the national debate on this topic and local anger over the federal government’s interfering in the city’s affairs.
Elsewhere, Republicans appeared more circumspect. In the case of nutrition and school lunch standards promoted by first lady Michelle Obama — a clear flash point — the House retreated to compromises crafted by Senate Democrats.
As both POLITICO and the Washington Post point out, Obama's executive orders and Obamacare are fully funded. Though the IRS won't be getting more money according to the Post.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT:
The law is still funded, but there's no new money for it. There's also no new ACA-related funding for the Internal Revenue Service and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the two agencies most responsible for implementing the law. The bill also would cut the budget of the Independent Payment Advisory Board -- what Republicans have called "the death panel" -- by $10 million.
POLITICO also listed a few sections that they took a look at.
—The Pentagon is promised $490.2 billion for its core operations and another $64 billion in OCO funds counted outside the budget caps. The OCO number is significantly more than Obama first anticipated last spring and reflects the stepped-up U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria as well as $175 million to aid Ukraine and Baltic states like Latvia in the face of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
—The State Department and foreign aid accounts, including almost $9 billion in OCO funds. The extra OCO funds will help preserve what’s become a greatly expanded refugee assistance program of just over $3 billion annually. Almost $1.9 billion is provided in disaster assistance — again heavily dependent on OCO support.
Closer to home, the bill provides an estimated $260 million for a basket of programs to help Central America address some of the economic and social ills that drove the spike in child migrants this past year. But after all the tough talk of standing up to Egypt on human rights, the agreement backs away from cutting Cairo’s $1.3 billion in military aid and instead makes a small but surprising cut in economic assistance.
—The cuts from the IRS are the most severe, and the $10.95 billion provided is $346 million below the tax agency’s current funding. This is relatively close to what House Republicans had first proposed and dramatically less than Obama had requested. But as part of the same bargain, the bill drops House language that would bar the IRS from playing its critical role in implementing the president’s Affordable Care Act.
—Nuclear weapon activities within the energy and water chapter of the bill continue to grow: The $8.2 billion provided is $387 million above current funding. For the Bureau of Reclamation, $50 million is provided to address drought conditions in the West — a major priority for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who oversees the bureau’s budget. And the bill directs that not less than $1.1 billion be provided for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the Army Corps of Engineers — a $100 million increase.
—Major science agencies enjoy modest increases but often not enough to keep pace with inflation. The National Science Foundation’s budget would grow to $7.3 billion, for example, just $172 million more than this year. The National Institutes of Standards and Technology and Agricultural Research Service are virtually frozen at current spending as is the Office of Science in the Energy Department.
— The National Institutes of Health would receive just shy of $30.1 billion, a $150 million increase. But the bigger new money for NIH will come from its role in research and clinical trials related to Ebola.
As you could imagine, not everyone is jumping on board with this bill. Some Democrats aren't on board just yet and Conservatives are upset that the spending bill funds Obamacare and amnesty.
So far I don't have much faith that Republican leadership will do anything but talk a big game and that could hurt them in 2016.
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