Lawmakers introduce compromise 'minibus' spending bill

House and Senate appropriators late Monday night released a compromise spending ‘minibus’ that combines three of the 12 annual appropriations bills and a temporary spending bill to fund the rest of the government through Dec. 16.

The bill, set for a Thursday vote in the House, is the first conferenced spending bill to go through Congress since 2009. All funding in 2011 was determined through catch-all continuing resolutions. For fiscal 2012, which began Oct. 1, Congress has yet to pass any of the regular bills. 

The report was signed by 37 members of the conference. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) was the lone dissenter. 

Negotiators have conformed to the $1.043 trillion overall 2012 spending limit set in the August debt-ceiling deal in presenting their $128 billion spending package. Because of this, a substantial number of House conservatives can be expected to vote against the deal in order to flag their desire to cut government more deeply.

ADVERTISEMENT
Democrats in the conference committee were able to secure funding for most of their priorities, with the notable exception of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is charged with implementing the Dodd-Frank financial reforms.

The CFTC, granted $205 million, was not granted the $308 million that President Obama said in his budget is needed to implement those reforms this  year.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the lead House negotiator on the CFTC budget, defended the spending level, noting that the House originally wanted $30 million less. He said that the CFTC has overstepped its authority under Dodd-Frank and needed to be reined in.

The bill includes $19.8 billion for agriculture programs, a drop from $19.9 billion in 2011. Funding for the Commerce, Justice and Science title was reduced from $53.3 billion to $52.7 billion. Transportation and housing programs were given $55.6 billion, an increase from the $55.4 billion in 2011.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) in announcing the package noted that spending is being cut compared to 2011.

“By holding the line on spending within the levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act, we’ve cut total discretionary spending for the second year in a row – a remarkable achievement that will save taxpayers billions of dollars and help get our nation’s budgets back into balance,” he said.

The GOP is touting the fact the bill contains policy riders such as those limiting Justice Department attempts to limit gun rights and limitations on Amtrak funding.

Democrats are bragging that the bill includes an increase for Women, Infants and Children nutrition funding, an increase for a veterans' housing programs and sufficient Food and Drug Administration funding to implement FDA reform legislation. They are lamenting a cut to local policing and legal services.

On the controversial subject of disaster aid, which is allowed to rise above the overall spending cap, House and Senate negotiators split the difference on those elements of disaster aid included in the bill. The package provides $2.3 billion, an $850 billion cut from the Senate request.

Negotiators abandoned an attempt to resolve the biggest dispute over disaster aid, which involves $6 billion included in the homeland security bill. That bill was not included in the minibus to avoid controversy: the government nearly shutdown in September over House GOP objections to $1 billion in disaster aid that was not offset by spending cuts.

Negotiators also split the difference on the controversial issue of maximum loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A Senate amendment opposed by conservatives to raise these limits and expand Fannie and Freddie activities was rejected. The bill does give an increase to Federal Housing Authority limits, however.

—This story has been updated.