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House approves 2013 spending package, continued pay freeze

Mar. 6, 2013 - 03:10PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
The bill passed by the House would replace a continuing resolution scheduled to expire March 27.
The bill passed by the House would replace a continuing resolution scheduled to expire March 27. (Getty Images)

The House approved a $982 billion spending package Wednesday to avert a partial government shutdown and cancel a 0.5 percent federal pay raise scheduled to take effect at the end of this month.

The measure, which funds government operations for the rest of fiscal 2013, now goes to the Senate.

In a statement before the vote, the Obama administration said it is “deeply concerned” about the measure, but would work with Congress to refine it.

The bill would replace a continuing resolution that expires March 27. It would generally lock in the sequester’s across-the-board budget cuts that took effect last Friday, but give the Defense Department more latitude in spending its money.

“This will take the risk of a government shutdown off the table,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said before the vote.

But Democrats denounced the measure for continuing the sequester cuts. The reductions “will affect every household in America,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said.

In its statement, the White House said it will continue to press lawmakers to eliminate the sequester.

Although the 267-151 House vote on the Republican measure was mostly along party lines, 53 Democrats supported the bill and 14 GOP lawmakers were opposed.

The legislation also would:

• Require the U.S. Postal Service to continue Saturday mail delivery. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe announced plans last month to end Saturday mail-delivery service in August. In a response to the House-passed measure, the Postal Service said in a statement that its plan to halt Saturday delivery is “responsible and reasonable,” given the agency’s financial situation.

• Allow the Pentagon and the Veteran Affairs Department to shift money among accounts. The Pentagon would get less money, for example, for military personnel than last year to account for a drop in troop levels, but receive more funding for operations and maintenance to meet training and other readiness needs.

• Keep current staffing levels at Customs and Border Protection.

• Add funding to ensure the safe operation of federal prisons.

• Add funding to maintain the launch schedule for new weather satellites.

The package’s overall cost would be about $65 billion — or 6 percent — below the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending cap set by Congress two years ago under the Budget Control Act. The act required the sequester cuts that took effect Friday after lawmakers and the Obama administration failed to agree on a roadmap for reducing future federal deficits by $1.2 trillion through 2021. Those cuts exempt military personnel and veterans programs, but shave other defense programs by 7.8 percent and non-defense programs by 5 percent, according to the White House budget office.

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