House-passed FY2013 appropriations bill separately funds DoD and VA; CR for other agencies

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Yesterday, the House passed a FY2013 appropriations bill (H.R. 933) that would keep the government operating through the end of the fiscal year.  The final vote was 267-151, as 53 Democrats joined 214 Republicans in supporting the bill.

The bill provides $982 billion to fund the government for FY2013, $65 billion below the discretionary spending limit set in the Budget Control Act.  It includes separate appropriations for the Department  of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, while providing a year-long continuing resolution (CR) for all other federal agencies. 

The bill would lock into place the $85 billion sequester that went into effect on March 1.

The White House indicated that the president will not veto the bill if sent to him in its present form.  However, in a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the bill issued, the administration expressed concern about the effect of the lower funding levels and vowed to work with Congress to “refine” the legislation before it is finally approved.

The bill provides DoD and the VA with flexibility to implement sequestration, such as increased transfer authority for reprogramming funds from lower to higher priorities, but generally excludes such flexibility for other agencies.  However, it does provide additional funding (above the CR level) for nuclear weapons modernization, embassy security, and wildfire suppression.  It also includes a provision that would avoid furloughs for FBI and U.S. Border Patrol agents. 

The bill rejects the president’s recommended .5 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees.  Federal civilians have not gotten a cost-of-living pay raise since 2010.  Military personnel would receive a 1.7 percent increase.

The House bill provides $518 billion for the Department of Defense, except for military construction (funded in the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs bill), $2 billion higher than the president’s request.

Operations and Maintenance (O&M) funding in the bill is $173.5 billion, $1.4 billion below the request.  However, total O&M funding is $10 billion above the FY2012 level which, according to the House Appropriations Committee, will provide “essential funding for key readiness programs.”  Funding for the Defense Health Program totals $32.7 billion in the bill, about $200 million more than the request. 

DoD procurement accounts are funded at $100.4 billion in the bill, $1.4 billion below the request.  Research and Development funding totals $70 billion, more than $500 million above the request.

The committee press release identifies $5 billion in reductions to DoD accounts in the bill that do not affect mission success: $4 billion rescissions of unused funding; $515 million for unjustified Army growth; and $500 million in excess spare parts inventory.

The House bill provides $10.6 billion for military construction and family housing in the MilCon/VA bill, over $500 million below the president’s request.  The bill would cut requested active component military facilities construction funding by over $600 million, but fully funds the president’s request for all Guard and Reserve construction accounts, all Family Housing accounts, Chemical Demilitarization construction, and the NATO Security Investment Program.

The Senate is expected to take consider the bill next week.  Senate Appropriations Committee chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) had hoped to prepare an omnibus appropriations bill that included all 12 appropriations.  However, the need to finish a bill quickly to avoid a government shutdown before March 27, has made that effort impractical.  Sen. Mikulski is working to include specific funding or at least flexibility to implement sequestration for some domestic agencies in the final bill.  Most likely candidates are Homeland Security and Commerce/Justice/Science bills (both passed by the House and related to national security).

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