The Senate will take up an omnibus spending bill that handily passed the House. / Mark Wilson / Getty Images
The House approved a fiscal 2014 spending package on Jan. 15 by a 359-67 margin, sending the bill to the Senate for a vote on final passage. The almost 1,600-page bill would end the threat of another partial government shutdown until the end of September, while setting agency funding levels for the year and extending a 1 percent pay raise to more than 200,000 blue-collar wage grade employees. If the measure passes the Senate as expected, President Obama will sign it, the White House has indicated.
For federal agencies and employees, the measure would also partially spare them from a second round of potentially crippling sequester-related spending cuts. Last year, for example, FBI leaders said they were planning for up to 10 furlough days in 2014 if the full sequester went into effect. Instead, the bureau’s $8.3 billion slice of the new bill is some $230 million above last year’s pre-sequester level, according to the House Appropriations Committee.
The measure also averts a $20 billion cut for the Defense Department to leave the base budget for the government’s largest agency at $480 billion. But that amount is still $31 billion, or almost 6 percent, below the Pentagon’s original request for 2014, consultant Jim McAleese noted in an analysis.
During the debate preceding the bill’s passage, lawmakers on both sides acknowledged that the measure could be better, but also lauded their ability to reach a deal after three years in which they were prone to resort to crisis-driven continuing resolutions.
Majority Republicans also praised the legislation for keeping a continued lid on government spending. “This bill’s not perfect, I hate to tell you, but it’s a good one,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.
Some Democrats were more critical, but nonetheless voted in favor. “The best that can be said about it is that it begins to chip away at sequestration,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said. “The numbers are still awful, but the alternative is worse.”
In providing the 1 percent increase for wage grade employees, lawmakers put them on par with General Schedule workers who were covered by a White House executive order issued last year.