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Senate bill backs away from reprogramming measure

Mar. 14, 2013 - 01:39PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments

WASHINGTON — Proposed language to give the Pentagon and other agencies greater ability to move funds — with congressional approval — was not included in governmentwide spending legislation under consideration in the Senate.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., told reporters last Thursday she wanted to insert language into the Senate’s version of 2013 continuing spending legislation that spelled out a one-year-only idea: giving all federal agency heads something called “enhanced transfer reprogramming authority.”

Mikulski’s goal was to arm all federal agency officials with unprecedented flexibility to move monies among funding pots — not just within — to help blunt the effects of the twin $500 billion defense and domestic sequestration cuts triggered earlier this month.

Under the concept, Mikulski still would have required all federal agencies to submit requests to shift funds to congressional subcommittee chairpersons and ranking members before they could move funds among pots of money.

But several senators said this week the concept was booted from the version of the Senate’s CR now being debated on the floor. An electronic search of the bill and support documents turned up no language on Mikulski’s concept.

While that concept was scrubbed, one key defense lawmaker said because the Senate’s CR contains a full 2013 Pentagon appropriations bill, defense officials soon will be able to shift funds. That means while they would be unable to avoid the sequester cuts, simply having a full appropriations bill should ease the sequester pain.

“For that amount of money, the last seven months, they’ll still have reprogramming authority for [the remainder] of 2013,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Thursday he plans to introduce an amendment to the chamber’s Democratic-crafted budget that would apply sequestration to most of the federal government.

He plans to do that during an ongoing mark-up by the Senate Budget Committee, on which he also sits, later in the day. The goal is to spread out the $1 trillion, decade-long cut to planned spending and lessen the impact on the Pentagon’s budget, he said.

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