POLITICS

Spending bill dispute could cause partial government shutdown

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Environmentalists scored clear wins in stopping virtually every significant GOP initiative to roll back Environmental Protection Agency rules. Most importantly, industry forces seeking to block new greenhouse gas and clean air rules, as well as a new clean water regulation opposed by mountaintop removal mining interests, were denied. But Republicans succeeded in blocking new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs and won delays to a new Labor Department rule requiring a reduction of coal dust responsible for black lung disease.

President Obama and House Republican leaders are at it again over federal spending. (Photo: Associated Press)

Drafted behind closed doors, the proposed bill would provide $115 billion for overseas security operations in Afghanistan and Iraq but give the Pentagon just a 1 percent boost in annual spending not directly related to the wars. The Environmental Protection Agency's budget would be cut by 3.5 percent. Foreign aid spending would drop and House lawmakers would absorb a 6 percent cut to their office budgets.

On spending, the measure generally consists of relatively small adjustments to thousands of individual programs. Agencies like the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will get a boost within the Homeland Security Department, while GOP defense hawks won additional funding to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. The troubled, over-budget, next-generation F-35 fighter plane program would be largely protected.

Social conservatives won a ban on government-funded abortions in Washington, D.C., and restored a longstanding ban on U.S. funding for needle exchange programs used to prevent the spread of HIV. But efforts to take away federal funding for Planned Parenthood failed, as expected.

To placate conservatives, $8 billion for disaster aid will be addressed in a separate bill, though on a parallel track to the omnibus measure.

It's a sticky issue for conservatives because approving the disaster aid would bring the total amount of money allotted for agency budgets above last year's budgets. By putting the aid in a separate bill, the GOP can lean heavily on Democrats to pass it.

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