House and Senate leaders presented a trillion-dollar budget on Monday evening that finally — finally! — resolves the outstanding disputes from the government shutdown in October. Well, that, and it funds the government through 2014.
The proposal, which is the product of each branch's Appropriations Committees, comes in just under the wire. The hard-fought funding measure that followed the shutdown expires on Wednesday night at midnight: if no funding is passed between now and then, we get another shutdown. In a sign of how eagerly House Republicans want to avoid a repeat of that, they are likely to introduce a three-day continuing resolution that would give Congress time to pass the agreement.
During the shutdown, the Republican strategy was to introduce piecemeal funding measures that were aimed at breaking the Democrats' ranks. The House introduced measures funding the Park Service, the National Institutes of Health, veterans, the Head Start program, and the Food and Drug Administration, among others, each time arguing that the need for those aspects of government necessitated they be funded quickly and fully. In the spending bill, the Republicans finally got their wish: a quick survey using Congressional Quarterly data indicates that the programs the House considered pressing concerns last October were funded at the levels in President Obama's proposed 2014 budget; much higher, in general, than the House proposal released last year. Head Start, for example, receives nearly full funding.
The NIH, however, is funded at a level about equivalent to what it received in the first year of the George W. Bush presidency, a level that is frustrating and alarming the agency's scientists. It remains to be seen if House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will hold another press conference in its defense, standing in front of members of the House wearing doctors' robes.
Passage of the omnibus spending bill isn't guaranteed, despite the urgency. As The Hill reports, the Tea Party group FreedomWorks is already demanding conservatives oppose the measure, comparing Speaker John Boehner unfavorably with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: "Boehner is trying to ram an omnibus spending bill through Congress before you and I can find out what's in it. That's the same way Pelosi snuck ObamaCare through Congress."
So the omnibus also includes a number of components meant to appeal to conservatives. As The Hill reports, it will reverse some of the military pension cuts that were a key compromise in the Ryan-Murray deal reached late last year. It also delays implementation of a ban on incandescent lightbulbs, preserves a ban on government funding for abortions in the District of Columbia, and blocks the administration from transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Funding for high-speed rail service is dropped; perhaps as consolation, Vice President Joe Biden gets a $90,000 appropriation for "official entertainment expenses."
More on the nose, the bill also adds new restrictions on the IRS in the wake of revelations that the agency targeted Tea Party groups applying for tax exempt status in 2012 — but actually reduces appropriations for bolstering security at embassies, despite the outcry over the attack in Benghazi, Libya. It cuts $1 billion from an Obamacare fund, as The New York Times notes, and blocks any funding for the non-existent ACORN no fewer than four times. The Washington Post has a detailed breakdown of other components of the bill, including that official portraits of Cabinet members will no longer be paid for by the government.
Something for everyone, as the saying goes. Or so House Republican leaders hope. The October shutdown is finally over, and both sides at last have enough in their pockets to move on.