The huge bipartisan bill would fund the government through the end of September
"This gets the train back on the track," a Republican congressman says
It "shows the American people that we can compromise" a Democratic senator says
The bill affects areas like federal worker pay, airport security and light bulbs
Shaking off three years of partisan freeze, Republicans and Democrats unveiled a $1.012 trillion spending deal Monday night that would roll back some spending cuts, raise federal worker pay and have a surprisingly broad effect on Americans’ everyday lives, from the light bulbs in lamps to the lines at airport security.
The massive bipartisan bill is a break from years of forced budget cuts and constant Congressional funding fights. It would green-light spending through the end of September.
“I think the most significant thing is this gets the train back on the track,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Kentucky, told reporters.
Wielding the power of one of the biggest purses in the world, the measure sets America’s national and international priorities. And in the current atmosphere, the so-called “omnibus” bill may be the largest policy decision Congress makes this year.
Federal workers and military personnel would see 1 percent increases in their paychecks, marking the first pay raise in three years for most agency staffers.
The deal also would protect disabled veterans and some military spouses from a pension cut set to go into effect in 2015.
Appeal for both sides
They’re cheering a $1 billion increase in Head Start funding from its recent low point after forced budget cuts last year. Half of that will go to help children three years old and younger, touching on an Obama administration priority. Senate Appropriations Chairman Barbara Mikulski, a former social worker, also won millions of dollars for mental health programs.
“This agreement shows the American people that we can compromise, and that we can govern,” Mikulski wrote in a statement late Monday.
What do Republicans like in that compromise?
Hits to two of their least-favorite agencies: the IRS budget will be at 2009 levels and Republicans crow that they’ve cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding by 20 percent since 2009.
Overall, federal spending is lower than in years.
“Everyone can find something to complain about, but from a Republican standpoint, this is $164 billion less than (President George W.) Bush’s last budget, so that’s pretty good progress,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, who sits on the Appropriations Committee.
Air travel targeted
Changes at the airports may be the most visible Republican idea in the bill.
The omnibus launches several policies aimed at forcing the Transportation Security Administration to get more low-risk passengers through security more quickly.
First, the bill would cap the number of TSA agents at 46,000. It would also require the TSA to certify increasing numbers of travelers as eligible for “expedited” screening.
By mid-April, the agency must tell Congress that one quarter of the traveling public is “expedite” eligible. By the end of 2014, that figure must be one in two.
TSA representatives and aviation experts were not available for comment on the airport security policies at publishing time.
Lights and health
At home, the omnibus bill would give Americans more lighting options and less efficiency.
The measure stops implementation of a new light-bulb standard which aimed to gradually replace many incandescent light bulbs.
That seems to be one of the secrets of the new bipartisanship: pick your controversial items with a light hand.
Thus, Obamacare does make a few appearances in the spending plan, but negotiators mostly tiptoe around it.
The deal requires that a $1 billion “Prevention and Public Health” account, which Republicans call a “slush fund,” be used only for, well, prevention and public health.
Not all big issues
The word “Benghazi” enters the discussion as well. This deal requires that before the U.S. can send any more foreign aid to Libya, Secretary of State Kerry must certify that the Libyan government is helping to find those responsible for the Benghazi attack.
The bill is not all sweeping, big issues. It also contains countless smaller provisions, like a ban on funding any new portraits of most officials.
“What I wanted was a benign bill,” said appropriations chairman Rogers, “(a bill) that would not have any earthshaking changes, and I think that’s what we have.”
The House hopes to pass the measure Wednesday, the day that the current spending bill runs out.
Leaders plan for government to then operate on a very short three-day funding bill to give the Senate time to debate and vote later this week.