Massive Budget Bill Set for House Approval

Image: Massive Budget Bill Set for House Approval The U.S. Capitol is shrouded in a dense morning fog on Jan. 15.

Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 08:41 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The House is on track to pass a $1.1 trillion budget bill Wednesday that will ease sequester spending cuts but maintain overall spending reductions, a compromise that is attracting widespread support on both sides of the aisle and will avert another government shutdown on Jan. 15.

Conservative groups and tea party lawmakers, however, have voiced their dissatisfaction with the bill, in part for its size (1,582 pages), and because it does not go far enough in achieving deficit reductions or cuts to Obamacare, a position that triggered the October government shutdown.

The legislation "funds Obamacare, plusses up other wasteful programs and contains dozens of policy riders that can only be described as earmarks," conservative group Club for Growth said in a statement in which it urged Congressmen to oppose the bill.

The bill marks the culmination of months of negotiations built on the bipartisan Ryan-Murray budget deal which was struck in December.

Of note, it will head off $20 billion in cuts due to hit the Pentagon, fund federal agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year, and also provide funding for new initiatives, including President Barack Obama's plan to expand early-childhood education, according to The Washington Post.

Federal workers will also get a 1 percent pay increase, and funding for Head Start will be fully restored.

"The legislation will continue the downward trend in federal spending to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path," Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers, said Monday night when the measure was released, according to the Associated Press.

The White House also welcomed the package. "The bipartisan appropriations bill represents a positive step forward for the nation and our economy," White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement, according to the Post.

But conservative groups are not so happy. In a statement on Tuesday, Heritage Action, one of the groups that marshaled support for last fall's campaign to fight funding for Obamacare urged lawmakers to oppose the bill in part on grounds that it spends too much. "The bill on balance takes the country in the wrong direction, both in terms of policy and overall spending levels," its statement said.

Kansas GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp agreed, according to The Hill.

"I'm going to be a no," he said. "It still projects a $600 billion deficit. We retained some conservative riders, but we didn't get all of them."

Nonetheless, congressional Republicans were quick to point out that the bill will cut agency budgets across the board, leaving them funded at tens of billions of dollars less than requested by the president and congressional Democrats, and rolling back funding to levels in line with the final years of George W. Bush's administration, the Post reports.

"Everybody can find something to complain about — legitimately so," GOP Rep. Tom Cole, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, said, according to the Post. "But from the Republican standpoint, gosh, this is $164 billion less than Bush's last discretionary budget, so that's pretty good progress in cutting spending."

A number of Democrats echoed that sentiment.

"Compared to the sequester, this is obviously a big improvement. But compared to investments we should be making, it falls far short," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said, according to the Post. He added that the legislation shows that "this notion that the federal government is on a spending binge is just nonsense."

Once the bill clears the House, it will go to the Senate for a likely vote on Friday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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