WASHINGTON (AP) – Weary after a year of partisan bickering, lawmakers tried Monday to wrap up a sprawling $1 trillion-plus spending bill that chips away at military and environmental spending but denies conservatives many of the policy changes they wanted on social issues, government regulations and health care.
The measure implements this summer’s hard-fought budget pact between President Barack Obama and Republican leaders. That deal essentially freezes agency budgets, on average, at levels for the recently-completed budget year that were approved back in April.
Drafted behind closed doors, the proposed bill would pay for the war in Afghanistan but give the Pentagon just a 1 percent boost in annual spending, while the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would be cut by 3.5 percent.
The bill also covers everything from money to combat AIDS and famine in Africa, patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, operations of national parks, and budget increases for veterans’ health care.
Negotiators on the appropriations committees hope to get a final agreement from top leaders like House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.–and the White House–and officially unveil the measure by late tonight in preparation for House and Senate votes before a midnight deadline on Friday, when a stopgap funding measure expires.
The measure is likely to go over like a lead balloon among tea party conservatives, many of whom believe the August budget and debt compromise didn’t cut enough. Last month, 101 House Republicans opposed a smaller bundle of spending bills.
Conservative ire is likely to be magnified once the negotiating outcome regarding dozens of GOP policy “riders” is finalized. Republicans larded the measures with provisions aimed at rolling back Environmental Protection Agency rules, such as regulations on coal ash, large-scale discharges of hot water and greenhouse gases from electric power plants, and emissions from cement plants and oil refineries.
The most controversial riders are sure to be dumped overboard due to opposition from Obama and Democrats controlling the Senate. But Democrats realize that they have to show some flexibility to win GOP votes in the House. That means Democrats are likely to accept, reluctantly, a rider that blocks the city of Washington, D.C., from funding abortions for poor women.
Read more here. One would have hoped that the tea party revolution launched in 2010 would have resulted in slightly more than changing abortion funding policies in one American city.