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CQ Roll Call | House Looks to Preserve Defense Spending Via Deep Domestic Cuts

May 17, 2013
In The News

House Looks to Preserve Defense Spending Via Deep Domestic Cuts
By Kerry Young | CQ Roll Call | May 17, 2013



House Republican appropriators are preparing to write fiscal 2014 spending bills that would protect spending for the military and homeland security by making deep cuts to domestic programs.

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky, is circulating a $967 billion plan for the 12 annual spending bills, known as 302(b) allocations, that are due to be approved by the panel on Tuesday.

The overall figure adheres to the spending caps set by recent budget agreements and assumes automatic, across-the-board cuts, known as the sequester, occur in fiscal 2014 without larger agreement to cut the deficit. But the division of spending for the annual bills makes it clear that Republicans have preserved national security spending at the expense of domestic programs favored by Democrats.

Calling it an “austere budget year,” Rogers said, “This is the hand that sequestration has dealt us, and we have no choice but to try and make the best of what we have.”

The allocations provide a combined $625 billion in fiscal 2014 for the Defense, Military Construction-VA and Homeland Security bills, which would be a cut of $4 billion, or less than a percent, from the current enacted level. Discretionary spending in the rest of the government — covered by the other nine spending bills — would be cut by about $72 billion, or 17 percent, from current levels.

Two Bills Would Take Hardest Hits

The biggest cuts would come from the two bills that pay for implementing two of PresidentBarack Obama’s signature legislative achievements — the 2010 overhauls of health care (PL 111-148PL 111-152) and financial services (PL 111-203). The Labor-HHS-Education bill would provide $121.8 billion, about $35 billion, or 22 percent, less than the current level. The Financial Services bill would provide about $17 billion, a cut of $4.5 billion, or 21 percent.

Rogers’ proposal for defense spending goes well beyond a budget cap set by a bipartisan 2011 debt-limit deal. The Budget Control Act (PL 112-25) calls for cutting defense spending, which is made up of largely the Pentagon budget but also includes the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program and some Federal Bureau of Investigation and Coast Guard accounts, by $54 billion to $498.1 billion. The remainder of federal operating expenses would be cut by $37 billion to $468.8, according to the budget law.

Already, Rogers had designated $522.4 billion for the Pentagon’s operations and construction projects in the Defense and Military Construction-VA spending bills. Additional national-security spending will come in the proposed $30.4 billion Energy-Water allocations, which provides billions of dollars for the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

Rogers’ allocations seem roughly in line with the House budget resolution (H Con Res 25), adopted along partisan lines in March. It calls for moving the cap on the defense category to $552 billion, while shrinking the rest of the federal operating expenses to $414 billion.

Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations panel that oversees Labor-HHS-Education spending, blasted the cuts and accused the GOP of targeting “poor people, kids, college students, sick people, the unemployed and the disabled.”

“The majority’s funding proposal would help create a permanent underclass in this country when we should be ensuring competitiveness in the global economy with robust education and training programs,” DeLauro added. “The majority’s funding proposal tells our most vulnerable children that they just aren’t important to us and we are content to let them struggle for the rest of their lives.”

Democrats in both chambers and Obama want to set the spending cap at $1.058 trillion level that assumes the sequester is scrapped. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., has said that her committee will use $1.058 trillion cap in writing its spending bills. She is expected to begin circulating her 302(b) allocations to the committee next week and they’ll be considered by the panel in early June.

Many Republicans, including Rogers, expect that the fiscal 2014 cap may be at least raised as part of a larger budget deal. As result, GOP appropriators may delay moving some domestic spending bill with hopes that severe cuts can be eased or reversed.

C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the Defense Appropriations panel, said he would have preferred to get more than $512 billion for his measure, but that he “can make it work”.

“There are lot of things that we would like to do that it won’t do,” Young said of the allocation, noting in particular widespread desires to expand the Navy’s presence in the Pacific and Middle East.

Young said he expects his bill to be marked up in June.

The House Appropriations Committee also will take up the Agriculture bill next month and then move that to the floor, said Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., chairman of the panel that writes the measure.

Like the three security bills, Aderholt’s measure was spared from cuts, getting a small increase to $19.45 billion from $19.41 billion. Senior House appropriators in both parties say those four spending bills could be enacted into law as part of a package after the final fiscal 2014 cap is set. Many conservative Democrats will support security spending, while Republicans back the aid provided to rural areas through the Agriculture bill.

“These give us a good position to go to conference” with Senate appropriators, Aderholt said. “You want to get the ball moving. You don’t want to start with one that is very controversial.”