House Panel Releases $1.1T Federal Funding Bill
Late Tuesday night the House Appropriations Committee released a nearly $1.1 trillion omnibus 2015 spending bill, pulling out contentious terrorism insurance and environmental riders while setting up debate over U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding for early in the new year amid an ongoing immigration dispute.
The bill — unofficially referred to by lawmakers as a “cromnibus,” -combining omnibus spending – and temporary continuing resolution — will come up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives as soon as Thursday, the day current federal discretionary spending authority expires, moving Congress closer to avoiding a repeat of the 16-day government shutdown in October last year.
They urged their colleagues to take up and pass the bill “as soon as possible,” touting its compromise nature and the need to provide the certainty of a “continuously functioning and responsible government.”
The bill, which will still need Senate approval if it passes the House, as expected, combines 11 of 12 annual appropriations measures, covering most federal agencies, extending their funding through to the end of fiscal year 2015 at the $1.014 trillion overall spending level agreed to in a previous bipartisan budget agreement.
It will also provide $64 billion to $74 billion in overseas contingency operations funding — the figure varies between Senate and House summaries of the bill — meant to help combat the Islamic State group and other overseas threats, and an additional $5.4 billion to address the emerging Ebola crisis, both domestically and abroad, in addition to $6.4 billion in other disaster aid.
The sole exception is the DHS, which will receive only a continuing resolution through to Feb. 27, allowing for further debate over the agency’s 2015 budget after the Republican Party takes over the Senate majority in January with the new Congress.
The move is aimed particularly at the budget for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a sub-agency of the DHS, amid a heated debate between Republican lawmakers and the administration of President Barack Obama over ongoing immigration enforcement efforts, recently inflamed by an Obama executive action allowing certain undocumented immigrants with children to remain in the U.S., among other immigration enforcement changes, issued on Nov. 20.
The bill had originally been expected to pass out of committee late Monday, giving Congress some breathing room ahead of a looming government shutdown on Friday, but a number of sticking points among legislators regarding certain riders on the bill held up its passage out of committee.
While many such clauses remain in the final bill, for instance blocking funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue further rules to place sage-grouse on the Endangered Species List and amending certain Dodd-Frank Act “swaps pushout” requirements, some of the more contentious riders were scrapped.
These include suggested measures to defund the implementation of certain U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, as well as a rider seeking to renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, brought into dispute by a Republican bid to include alterations to certain Dodd-Frank provisions covering certain end-user derivatives transactions, which were spun off into a separate measure.
Prior to agreeing to the cromnibus, Congress last passed a spending bill in September, a stopgap measure extending funding past the midterm elections in November and through to Dec. 11. Lawmakers may also pass a short-term continuing resolution this week to give them several days of breathing room, in order to lock down Tuesday’s longer-term measure.