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Huge spending bill would bury budget battles

WASHINGTON — Top congressional negotiators Monday night released a bipartisan US$1.1 trillion spending bill that would pay for the operations of government through October and finally put to rest the bitter budget battles of last year.

The massive measure fleshes out the details of the budget deal that Congress passed last month. That pact gave relatively modest, but much-sought relief to the Pentagon and domestic agencies after deep budget cuts last year.

The bill would avert spending cuts that threatened construction of new aircraft carriers and next-generation Joint Strike Fighters. It maintains rent subsidies for the poor, awards federal civilian and military workers a 1 percent raise and beefs up security at U.S. embassies across the globe. The Obama administration would be denied money to meet its full commitments to the International Monetary Fund but get much of the money it wanted to pay for implementation of the new health care law and the 2010 overhaul of financial regulations.

The 1,582-page bill was released after weeks of negotiations between House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Senate counterpart Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who kept a tight lid on the details until its release late Monday.

"This agreement shows the American people that we can compromise, and that we can govern," Mikulski said. "It puts an end to shutdown, slowdown, slamdown politics."

The GOP-led House is slated to vote on the measure Wednesday, less than 48 hours after it became public. In their campaign to take over the House in 2010, Republicans promised a 72-hour review period. On Tuesday, the House is slated to approve a short-term funding bill to extend the Senate's deadline to finish the overall spending bill until midnight on Saturday. The current short-term spending bill expires at midnight Wednesday evening.

The measure doesn't contain in-your face victories for either side. The primary achievement was that there was an agreement in the first place after the collapse of the budget process last year, followed by a 16-day government shutdown and another brush with a disastrous first-ever default on U.S. obligations. After the shutdown and debt crisis last fall, House Budget committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., struck an agreement to avoid a repeat of the 5 percent cut applied to domestic agencies last year and to prevent the Pentagon from absorbing about US$20 billion in new cuts on top of the ones that hit it last year.

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Four-year-old Jack Burger sleds down the hill outside the U.S. Capitol January 3 in Washington, DC. Top congressional negotiators Monday night released a bipartisan US$1.1 trillion spending bill that would pay for the operations of government through October and finally put to rest the bitter budget battles of last year.

(AFP)

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