'We're a little late, but we have gotten the job done.' -- Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., moments before the Senate passed a $1.1 trillion budget bill. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)
The Senate resoundingly approved a massive spending bill Jan. 16, sending the legislation to President Obama for his signature and assuring federal agencies of their budgets for the rest of fiscal 2014.
“We’re a little late, but we have gotten the job done,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said shortly before the 72-26 vote. The House approved the measure Jan. 15; final passage in the Senate came less than three full days after the measure was introduced.
For agencies and employees, the $1.1 trillion measure would provide some relief from a second round of potentially crippling sequester-related spending cuts. Last year, for example, FBI leaders said they were planning to furlough virtually their entire workforce for up to 10 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 an official congressional summary
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 years of resorting to crisis-driven continuing resolutions.
Since Obama took office in 2009, lawmakers have passed 20 CRs, said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the appropriations committee. When adjusted for inflation, Shelby said, the package sets a level of discretionary spending below the threshold of a decade ago.