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Omnibus appropriations bill sails through

The omnibus appropriations bill crafted by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) sailed through both chambers this week. On Wednesday, the House passed the measure, which provides funds for all 12 appropriations bills, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359 to 67. On Thursday night, the Senate followed suit, passing the bill by a vote of 72 to 26.

The omnibus appropriations bill passage is a rare moment of bipartisanship in what has become a deeply divided and dysfunctional Washington. Senator Mikulski praised the process, which has given some hope that the parties and the chambers can work together on other issues:

"The vote...shows what working together based on civility, listening to each other, being willing to compromise but not capitulate on principle but negotiating on what are the appropriate fiscal levels, show we can get the job done...In today’s era of shutdowns, slowdowns, slam-down politics where negotiating occurs on cable TV rather than in committee rooms, we work together, setting aside partisan differences, working across the aisle and across the Dome, we looked to find how we could put together a bill that both sides of the aisle in both houses could agree upon."

Omnibus details

Spending levels

Congress has merged 12 different spending bills into a single one, called the Consolidated Appropriations Act (or Omnibus). Here are the spending levels for each division of the bill:

  • $145.7 billion for the Department of Agriculture, FDA and Rural Development
  • $51.6 billion for Departments of Commerce and Justice and science agencies
  • $572 billion for the Department of Defense
  • $34.1 billion for the Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers
  • $43 billion for the agencies in the Department of Treasury and financial agencies
  • $46.6 billion for the Department of Homeland Security
  • $30.1 billion for the Department of Interior and EPA
  • $156.8 billion for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
  • $4.3 billion for the Legislative Branch
  • $158 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction activity
  • $49 billion for the Department of State and other foreign assistance
  • $104.3 billion for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development

The Omnibus also includes roughly $98 billion for disaster assistance and war spending not subject to the $1.012 trillion cap.

Policy provisions

The Omnibus does not block implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd Frank Act or EPA regulations on carbon emissions, power plants and other proposals. It does, however, include prohibitions on federal funding for abortions, the closing of Guantanamo Bay and new high-speed rail.

Click here to view the Washington Business Brief video, Progress in Washington.

Unemployment benefits extension stalls in Senate

Since returning to Washington this January, Democrats have made the extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed a top priority. This week, those efforts stalled in the Senate when efforts to come to a deal over amendments to the bill broke down.

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K) failed to reach an agreement on amendments, the Senate voted 55-45, largely along party lines, to move forward on a three month extension. The vote fell short of the 60 needed to end debate.

The Senate is unlikely to consider the matter again until later this month.

Republicans consider attaching PILT to the farm bill

Republicans are considering attaching the program known as PILT (or Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes) to the long-debated farm bill. The Interior Department now distributes about $400 million annually to 1,900 local governments that are unable to raise money via property taxes because most of the land in their jurisdiction is owned by the federal government.

PILT’s funding authorization has expired and supporters had hoped to have the program included in the omnibus appropriations bill, but those efforts failed.

Cabinet update

This week, President Obama nominated community-bank founder Maria Contreras-Sweet to chair the Small Business Administration, filling the final vacancy in his cabinet and addressing concerns about the lack of diversity among his top appointees.

Appropriations winners and losers chart

 

Political bits

House

California 11th Congressional District: Long-time California Congressman George Miller (D-CA) announced this week that he would not run for re-election. Miller is a long-time ally of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

California 25th Congressional District: Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, announced this week that he will not run for another term.

Florida 13th Congressional District Special: Former lobbyist and congressional aide David Jolly captured 45 percent of the vote in the GOP special-election primary in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, and he will square off March 11 against 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink.

New York 21st Congressional District: On Tuesday, Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) announced that he would not run for re-election in November. Owens' announcement puts this swing district in play.

Virginia 8th Congressional District: Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), one of the House's most outspoken liberals, announced he would not seek another term in 2014. Moran, who represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district in Northern Virginia, will almost certainly be replaced by another Democratic member in Congress.

Senate

Oklahoma: Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) announced on Thursday that he would resign his seat at the end of this year. Coburn, a noted fiscal hawk, will leave the Senate two years before his term expires.

Virginia: Former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie (R-VA) announced he will run for the Senate in Virginia this year. He hopes to win the GOP nomination and the right to face off against popular Senator and former Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D-VA).
      
A look ahead

Senate

Thursday, Jan. 16 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Robert Barber to be ambassador to the Republic of Iceland; George James Tsunis to be ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway; and Colleen Bradley Bell to be ambassador to Hungary, at 2:30 p.m. in 419 Dirksen.

Washington by the numbers

2035 – The year the US is expected to achieve energy independence.

1.1 trillion – Dollars allocated in the 2014 omnibus spending bill.

They said what?

“One of the reasons I chose firing squad as opposed to any other form of execution is because, frankly, it's one of the cheapest for the state.” – Wyoming State Sen. Bruce Burns, on proposing an alternative method of execution in the wake of lethal-injection drug shortages. (National Journal

Washington humor

It's terrible when a politician is misunderstood and blamed for something he didn't say, as is the case with Gov. Chris Christie and the George Washington Bridge. To set the record straight, what he really told his staff was 'Close the Fridge'.

 

 Steven C. LaTourette, President | 202.559.2600

McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC
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