Yesterday, showing a level of bipartisan legislative activity seldom seen in Congress recently, the House passed the budget deal and the FY2014 Defense Authorization bill. Then, as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had promised, the House adjourned for the rest of the year.
The budget deal, announced earlier this week by budget committee chairs Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), passed (322-94) with widespread bipartisan support. The agreement won the approval of 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats. The Senate will take up the bill next week before it adjourns for the year.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 sets the total federal funding level for discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion in FY2014, about half way between the $1.058 trillion in the Senate-passed budget resolution and $967 billion approved by the House. The FY2015 spending level would be $1.014 trillion. The bill provides $65 billion in sequester relief over two years, evenly divided between defense and nondefense programs, and about $25 billion in deficit reduction.
To offset the sequester relief, Federal employees hired after December 31, 2013, will contribute more to their retirement fund and military retirees under age 62 will receive a lower cost of living increase, starting in December 2014. Other offsets include increased premiums paid by private companies to guarantee pension benefits, higher user fees, and the rescission of funds in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) thanked Ryan and Murray for their leadership and Republicans and Democrats “who have worked hard to bring this agreement together.” “It’s doing what the American people expect us to do, and that’s coming together and finding common ground,” he said.
House Appropriations chair Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) praised the House action on the budget deal. “With the approval of these spending levels, my Committee will be able to get down to business on our Appropriations bills, and I anticipate that we will start at once,” he said. He stressed that he expected to complete an FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill before the current Continuing Resolution expires on January 15, 2014.
The House also passed (350-69) the FY2014 Defense Authorization bill with wide bipartisan support. The bill had been hammered out by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and released this week by the committee chairs. The Senate will consider the bill next week
The Defense Authorization bill provides $544.4 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) funding for the nuclear weapons program. The bill also authorizes $80.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in FY2014. If passed by the Senate and signed by the president (as expected) it will be the 52nd consecutive approved defense authorization bill.
House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) lauded the House action. “This legislation continues our effort to rebuild a military that has been tested by a decade at war. It upholds the unwavering tradition of Congressional oversight, while providing support to the warfighter and value to the taxpayer,” he said.
There was hope that the House could achieve a trifecta by also passing the farm bill that had eluded completion due mainly to disagreement over spending for food stamps. However, the best the House could do was pass a one-month extension of current law.