Federal Government Budget Bill

According to the Washington Post, the $1.01 trillion spending bill unveiled late Tuesday will keep most of the federal government funded through next September.  It’s packed with hundreds of policy instructions, known on Capitol Hill as “riders,” that will upset or excite politicians and special interest groups.

Big changes are proposed for campaign finance – to allow even more money in politics

ABORTION:
The bill again bans using federal funding to perform most abortions.  Republicans say that there’s also new language to ensure that consumers shopping for health-care coverage on the federal exchange can tell whether a plan covers abortion services.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT:
The law is still funded, but there’s no new money for it.

AFGHANISTAN:
Congress withholds funding for the Afghan government “until certain conditions are met,” including implementing the bilateral security agreement with the United States.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE:
The bill would dramatically expand the amount of money that wealthy political donors could inject into the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. Bottom line: A donor who gave the maximum $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee would be able to donate another $291,600 on top of that to the party’s additional arms — a total of $324,000, ten times the current limit.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL:
The agency would get more than $6.9 billion, an increase of about $42.7 million. The nation’s leading disease-fighters also get $30 million to help fight Ebola (see below).

CLEAN WATER ACT:
In a win for Republicans, the spending bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from applying the law to certain farm ponds and irrigation ditches — a move that the GOP says would benefit farmers.

DODD-FRANK:
Democrats agreed to make some of the biggest changes yet to the 2010 financial regulatory reforms that were enacted after the financial crisis of 2007-2008.  In a deal sought by Republicans, the bill would reverse Dodd-Frank requirements that banks “push out” some of derivatives trading into separate entities not backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations. Ever since being enacted, banks have been pushing to reverse the change. Now, the rules would go back to the way they used to be. But in exchange, Democrats say they secured more money for the enforcement budgets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

EBOLA:
Roughly $5.4 billion is provided across several agencies to combat the spread of the disease in the United States and around the world. The president had requested $6 billion.

EGYPT:
The country gets $1.3 billion in military aid and $150 million in economic aid, but the money is subject to “democracy and human rights conditions.”

EMBASSIES:
There’s $5.4 billion for security at U.S. embassies worldwide, $46 million more than Obama requested. The total includes new money to “implement recommendations” from the “Benghazi Accountability Review Board.”

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY:
The agency gets $8.1 billion, down $60 million from the last fiscal year. The agency’s budget has been slashed by $2.2 billion, or 21 percent, since fiscal 2010, according to GOP aides. The cuts mean that EPA will have to reduce its staffing to the lowest levels since 1989.

FEDERAL WORKER PAY (AND CONFERENCES):
The bill allows a 1 percent pay raise ordered by Obama to take effect in January.

FOOD SAFETY (AND THE FDA)
There’s $2.589 billion for the Food and Drug Administration, a $37 million increase from last year. There’s $27 million in new funding for the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Food Safety and Inspection Service would receive $1.016 billion, a $5 million increase.

THE GABRIELLA MILLER KIDS FIRST ACT:
Congress agreed to provide $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act, which authorizes new federally-funded pediatric research. The bill was paid for by slashing federal funding for political conventions.

GUANTANAMO BAY:
Once again the Obama administration is banned from transferring terrorism detainees to the United States from the U.S. military facility in Cuba. There’s also a ban on building or buying any facility in the U.S. to house detainees.  The bill allows for the ongoing transfer of detainees to other countries.

IMMIGRATION:
The bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees most immigration policy, until February. But negotiators gave new money for immigration programs at other federal agencies. There’s $948 million for the Department of Health and Human Service’s unaccompanied children program — an $80 million increase. The program provides health and education services to the young migrants. The department also gets $14 million to help school districts absorbing new immigrant students.  The State Department would get $260 million for working with Central American countries.

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE:
One of the GOP’s favorite targets will see its budget slashed by $345.6 million.

ISRAEL:
There’s $3.1 billion in total aid for the country plus $619.8 million in defense aid.

JOE BIDEN:
The legislation again enacts a pay freeze for the vice president “and senior political appointees.”

LIBYA:
The country cannot receive any U.S. aid until the secretary of state confirms the country is cooperating with ongoing investigations into the September 2012 attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

JORDAN:
The Arab kingdom would receive $1 billion in economic and military aid, in addition to U.S. humanitarian aid for millions of Syrian refugees.

LIGHT BULBS:
The bill once again prohibits new standards that would ban the use of cheaper, less energy efficient incandescent bulbs. The proposal was first introduced and set in motion by the Bush administration, but the Obama White House allowed the change to continue.

MARIJUANA:
The District of Columbia will be prohibited from legalizing marijuana for the much of the coming year. The development — upending a voter-approved initiative — shocked elected D.C. leaders, advocates for marijuana legalization and civil liberties groups. The bill also would block the Justice Department from interfering with state-level medical marijuana measures and prohibits the Drug Enforcement Agency from interfering with industrial hemp production.

MASS TRANSIT:
$10.9 billion is to go to transit programs nationwide, including the construction of new rail and rapid bus projects in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas.  The bill has no new federal funding for high-speed rail projects, including the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco routes envisioned by California Democrats.

MILITARY PAY AND PERKS:
Military service members will receive a 1 percent pay increase next year.  There’s a pay freeze for generals and flag officers. The bill also ends a five percent discount on tobacco and tobacco-related products sold at military exchanges.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY:
The agreement includes $24 million to complete the federal government’s contribution to the museum, which is being built on the Mall.

NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH:
The nation’s premier medical research agency would receive $30.3 billion, a $150 million overall increase.

OVERSEAS MILITARY OPERATIONS:
There’s $1.3 billion for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund; $5 billion for military operations to combat the Islamic State, including $1.6 billion to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces; $500 million for a Pentagon-led program to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition fighters; $810 million for ongoing military operations in Europe, including requirements that at least $175 million is spent in support of Ukraine and Baltic nations.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY:
The bill stops assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it becomes a member of the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement with Israel. It also prohibits funds for Hamas.

PENSIONS:
The benefits of current retirees could be severely cut. The change would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets.

U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
The bill requires the mail service to continue six-day deliveries, despite a years-long attempt to cut service on Saturdays to save money.

RACE TO THE TOP:
The bill cuts funding for Obama’s signature education initiative, according to The Post.  Overall, the Education Department would take a slight hit in funding; at $70.5 billion, down $133 million below the fiscal year 2014, but special education grants to states would get $25 million more than last year, up to $11.5 billion.

RAILROADS:
Among other things, there’s $3 million to expand inspections along the roughly 14,000 miles of track used by trains hauling oil tankers.

SAGE-GROUSE:
The bill would ban the Fish and Wildlife Service from adding the rare bird found in several Western states to the Endangered Species List.  There is, however, a $15 million for the Bureau of Land Management to conserve sage-grouse habitats.

SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM:
The bill allows more flexibility to school districts to implement new whole grain nutrition standards “if the school can demonstrate a hardship” when buying whole grain products, according to Republicans. The bill also relaxes new sodium standards.

SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MILITARY:
There’s $257 million for the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs, including $25 million more to expand the Sexual Assault Victims’ Counsel program.

TRUCKING:
The bill blocks new Transportation Department regulations requiring truckers to get two nights of sleep before starting a new work week.

UNITED NATIONS:
The ban on providing money for the ongoing renovation of U.N. Headquarters in New York remains intact.

U.S. CAPITOL (AND RELATED AGENCIES):
There’s $21 million to continue restoring the cast-iron Capitol Dome. And $348 million for the U.S. Capitol Police (a force with 1,775 officers).

VETERANS:
Lawmakers are making good on promises to provide more money and oversight for the Department of Veterans Affairs.  There’s a total of $159.1 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending. Of that, $209 million was added to address new costs related to the bipartisan veterans’ reform bill passed last summer. The legislation calls for adding medical staff and expanding dozens of facilities. In order to address the “wait list” scandal, the VA’s inspector general is getting a $5 million budget increase to continue investigating lapses in patient care.

THE WAR ON DRUGS:
In a modest attempt to address a growing crisis with heroin, lawmakers are adding $7 million for a new anti-heroin task force run out of the Justice Department’s COPS Office. The money will be used as part of a program for drug enforcement, including investigations and operations to stop the distribution or sale of the drug, according to Democrats.

WHISTLEBLOWERS:
The bill includes language ensuring that government contractors are not barred from reporting allegations of waste, fraud or abuse if they sign a confidentiality agreement.

WHITE HOUSE BUDGET:
There’s $222 million for executive mansion operations, a $10 million increase. The money pays for the National Security and Homeland Security councils, the Council of Economic Advisers, the vice president’s office and the executive residence. The U.S. Secret Service would be allowed to use some of its funding “to prepare and train for the next presidential election campaign,” Democrats said.

WIC:
The Women, Infants and Children program that provides food aid to low-income families would receive $6.6 billion, a $93 million cut from the last fiscal year. But the program will be required to ensure that “all varieties of fresh vegetables, including white potatoes, are eligible for purchase” through the program, said Republicans. The change is a victory for the potato lobby, which has long fought to be part of the food assistance program.

YUCCA MOUNTAIN:
There’s no new money for the site, but Republicans say that the bill continues to leave open the possibility that the site could be used someday to store nuclear waste.

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