House Republicans Unveil $1 Trillion Spending Bill

House Republicans have unveiled a massive $1
trillion-plus yearend spending package despite a plea from the White
House for additional talks over a handful of provisions opposed by
President Barack Obama.


The measure unveiled late Wednesday curbs agency budgets but drops many policy provisions sought by GOP conservatives.

But
it contains language to roll back Obama administration policies that
had loosened restrictions on the rights of Cuban immigrants to send
money to relatives in Cuba or travel back to the island to visit them.
Earlier this year, the White House promised a veto over the restrictions
on travel and gifts, which are supported by many in the GOP-leaning
Cuban-American community, a powerful political force in the swing state
of Florida.

The spending measure had been held
up by Senate Democrats seeking leverage in talks on extending payroll
tax cuts and unemployment insurance – two pillars of Obama’s jobs
agenda.

But Democratic leverage to stall the
massive spending measure seems limited, since it raises the threat of a
government shutdown.

Release of the
legislation – to meet GOP transparency rules if a vote is to be held
Friday – came just a couple of hours after the White House issued a
statement saying that Obama “continues to have significant concerns
about a number of provisions” in the legislation.

White
House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer called for another stopgap
funding bill to buy time for talks on both the spending bill and the
payroll tax measure.

Stopgap funding runs out Friday at midnight.

The
underlying bill has bipartisan backing but could encounter turbulence
with tea party lawmakers seeking far more significant cuts to government
agencies. The measure funds the day-to-day operating budgets of 10
Cabinet departments and programs ranging from border security to flood
control to combating AIDS and famine in Africa.

Democrats
have yet to officially sign onto the measure, though top lawmakers in
the party – including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel
Inouye, D-Hawaii – are on board.

Given White House concerns, changes are still possible before a vote.

On
spending, the measure implements this summer’s hard-fought budget pact
between President Barack Obama and Republican leaders. That deal
essentially freezes agency budgets, on average, at levels that were
approved back in April for the recently completed budget year.

The
bill chips away at the Pentagon budget, foreign aid and environmental
spending but boosts funding for veterans programs. The Securities and
Exchange Commission, responsible for enforcing new regulations under
last year’s financial overhaul, won a 10 percent budget increase, even
as the tax-collecting IRS absorbs a more than 3 percent cut to its
budget.

Popular education initiatives for
special-needs children and disadvantaged schools were basically frozen
and Obama’s cherished “Race to the Top” initiative, which provides
grants to better-performing schools, would absorb a more than 20 percent
cut.

Environmentalists scored clear wins in
stopping virtually every significant GOP initiative to roll back
Environmental Protection Agency rules. Most importantly, industry forces
seeking to block new greenhouse gas and clean air rules, as well as a
new clean water regulation opposed by mountaintop removal mining
interests, were denied. But Republicans succeeded in blocking new energy
efficiency standards for light bulbs and won delays to a new Labor
Department rule requiring a reduction of coal dust responsible for black
lung disease.

Drafted behind closed doors,
the proposed bill would provide $115 billion for overseas security
operations in Afghanistan and Iraq but give the Pentagon just a 1
percent boost in annual spending not directly related to the wars. The
Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would be cut by 3.5 percent.
Foreign aid spending would drop and House lawmakers would absorb a 6
percent cut to their office budgets.

On
spending, the measure generally consists of relatively small adjustments
to thousands of individual programs. Agencies like the Border Patrol
and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will get a boost within the
Homeland Security Department, while GOP defense hawks won additional
funding to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. The troubled,
over-budget, next-generation F-35 fighter plane program would be largely
protected.

Social conservatives won a ban on
government-funded abortions in Washington, D.C., and restored a
longstanding ban on U.S. funding for needle exchange programs used to
prevent the spread of HIV. But efforts to take away federal funding for
Planned Parenthood failed, as expected.

To
placate conservatives, $8 billion for disaster aid will be addressed in a
separate bill, though on a parallel track to the omnibus measure.

It’s
a sticky issue for conservatives because approving the disaster aid
would bring the total amount of money allotted for agency budgets above
last year’s budgets. By putting the aid in a separate bill, the GOP can
lean heavily on Democrats to pass it.

Source: Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press