Key elements in $1.1 trillion spending bill
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Congressional negotiators released the details of a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill that would fund federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year and end the lingering threat of another government shutdown.
So, what's in it? We quickly sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements:
The bill once again bans the use of federal funding to perform most abortions; bans local and federal funding for abortions in the District of Columbia; and federal dollars for abortions for federal prisoners; and bans the use of U.S. foreign aid on abortions. But the agreement doesn't codify the so-called "Global Gag Rule" that bars nongovernmental organizations that receive federal funds from providing women information on certain health programs.
Affordable Care Act
The agreement doesn't provide any new funding to implement the health care law and maintains current funding levels at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the primary agency overseeing the law. But appropriators targeted a few controversial elements of the law.
First, there's a $1 billion reduction in the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a move Republicans say will keep administration officials from using the money to pay for elements of the health law. The bill also slashes $10 million for the Independent Payment Advisory Board, often referred to by Republicans as the "nonelected bureaucrats" or "death panels" that are set to advise government officials on health care issues.
The Department of Homeland Security will take a $336 million cut in funding, with most of the reductions at the Transportation Security Administration. In a victory for Republicans who have sought for years to boost the use of private security contractors, the agreement increases funding for private security screeners and caps TSA's overall screening personnel at 46,000.
The measure includes $85.2 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, a $2 billion cut from fiscal 2013 due in part to ongoing troop reductions. But the agreement also withholds money for the Afghan government "until certain conditions are met," including a decision to sign a new bilateral security agreement.
The agreement includes $10.6 billion for Customs and Border Protection, about $220 million more than the previous fiscal year. In a victory for California lawmakers and border security advocates, $128 million is allotted to expand the busy U.S.-Mexico border crossing station between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. But the sum is less than the $226 million originally sought by the Obama administration.
The omnibus includes a $174,000 bereavement payment to Beverly A. Young, the widow of congressman C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla. This is a customary payment made to the spouse of a lawmaker who dies in office and equals one year's salary.
Appropriators set aside about $6.55 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance to affected individuals and city and state governments.
Despite concerns for embassy security following the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attacks on two U.S. outposts in Benghazi, Libya, the bill provides $224 million less for embassy security, maintenance and construction costs than in fiscal 2013. The bill bans the construction of a new embassy in London and bars the State Department from closing the chancery at the U.S. Embassy in the Holy See and merging it with the one at the U.S. Embassy in Rome for security reasons, a project first pushed by George W. Bush's administration.
Democrats successfully blocked attempts by Republicans to prevent the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and to repeal new clean water regulations.
The legislation delays certain premium increases triggered by changes to the FEMA's flood insurance program. It's a big issue of concern for dozens of lawmakers in several areas, who strongly oppose changes that were made in a major flood insurance reform bill a few years ago. The language is an especially big victory for Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., as they continue to face each other in the hotly contested Louisiana Senate race.
The legislation bans the Obama administration from transferring terrorism detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to facilities in the United States. It also prohibits any money from being spent to "modify any facility in the U.S. to house detainees," a direct slap at attempts to build a terrorism detention site at a facility in Illinois.
Guns and Ammo
Several issues regarding gun control are in the bill. There's language prohibiting various import and export criteria related to firearms. The legislation restricts the Justice and Homeland Security departments from establishing programs similar to the "Operation Fast and Furious" gunrunning program. In response to allegations that the administration has been stockpiling ammunition for use by federal agents, the measure also requires DHS to provide detailed reports on its purchase and use of ammunition.
Democrats also stopped Republicans from blocking gun sellers from reporting multiple sales of rifles or shotguns to the same person. Finally, the legislation provides more money for National Instant Criminal Background Checks program to meet "increased demand."
The legislation prohibits any funding to require that contractors bidding for federal contracts disclose campaign contributions. The Obama administration has openly flirted with issuing executive orders that would require contractors to provide campaign disclosures.
In a big boost for education funding, there's $8.6 billion allotted for the program, a $1.025 billion increase. Within that funding is $500 million for Early Head Start and $250 million in grants to expand preschool programs.
With the Obama administration still deporting thousands of illegal immigrants on a daily basis, there's $2.8 billion for detention programs operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That funding helps to pay for 34,000 beds for detainees, "the highest detention capacity in history," according to the House Appropriations Committee. There's also $114 million to continue funding the E-Verify program used to help companies check the immigration status of job applicants. The bipartisan immigration reform proposal passed by the Senate last year would add additional funding to the program.
Democrats successfully blocked GOP attempts to prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to mount legal challenges to state immigration laws. And they blocked a GOP-backed rider that would have stopped ICE from prioritizing the deportation of dangerous criminals and instead forced the agency to target all groups, including the children of illegal immigrants.
The scandal-ridden tax-collecting agency comes in for special scrutiny this year. There's no funding "to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs or to target citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights." And the agreement requires the agency to provide reports on its spending on training and bonuses. And, in response to those "Star Trek" parody videos, there's no funding "for inappropriate videos."
The legislation enacts a pay freeze for the vice president "and senior political appointees."
There's a ban on foreign aid for Libya until Secretary of State John F. Kerry "confirms Libyan cooperation" with ongoing investigations into the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. compounds in Benghazi. The measure also includes additional money to upgrade several temporary diplomatic missions around the world.
The measure bars funding to enforce new light bulb standards that would ban the use of incandescent bulbs. The proposal was first introduced and set in motion by the Bush administration, but the Obama White House seized on the issue and allowed the change to continue, despite the sustained consumer demand for older bulbs.
The legislation authorized a 1 percent pay increase for U.S. military personnel. The agreement also authorizes 1,361,400 active-duty troops and 833,700 reservists.
In a change to the bipartisan budget agreement, lawmakers agreed to restore a cut in the cost-of-living adjustments to the pensions of disabled working-age veterans. The fix is a victory for members of both parties who sought to quickly restore the funding, even as they try to reverse the pension cuts for all veterans, which are likely to occur next year.
Consistent with current policy, the agreement doesn't provide any funding to further develop the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., and other Silver State lawmakers have fought for years to keep the government from using the location for nuclear disposal.
In a blow to one of the coolest perks of serving in the Cabinet, the legislation bars the use of federal money "for painting portraits."
U.S. Postal Service
In a blow to those seeking to revamp the nation's mail service, the legislation bars postal officials from ending Saturday mail delivery -- a move endorsed by a majority of Americans -- or from closing far-flung rural post offices -- a tricky issue fraught with political concerns. Postal officials for years have been seeking to end Saturday deliveries and to close smaller, less profitable locations.
Sexual Assault in the Military
In compliance with the defense authorization bill passed last month, the agreement provides $157 million for the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention programs and $25 million to expand a victims' counsel program for troops involved in rape or sexual assault cases.
The bill includes $5.3 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including money for the National Weather Service to keep running and building key weather satellites.
Federal Worker Pay (and Partying)
The measure authorizes a 1 percent pay increase for civilian federal workers and U.S. military personnel. But in response to several embarrassing examples of excess spending by federal agencies (IRS! GSA!), the bill also puts in place new bans and limitation on certain conferences, official travel and employee awards.
The agreement provides the Agriculture Department with enough money to provide an estimated 5.6 billion free or reduced-price school lunches and snacks for about 32.1 million eligible schoolchildren.
The legislation places overtime limits on Amtrak employees. And it includes no federal funding for high-speed rail projects in California, the Northeast corridor and elsewhere. But in a win for rail advocates, the agreement doesn't include a policy rider that bans the government from ever providing federal dollars for such projects.
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