Despite objections, panel passes spending outline

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a $1.014 trillion spending outline for federal discretionary spending in 2015 over the objections of Republicans on the panel.

The vote was 16 to 14. 

The plan divides the funding granted in the December bipartisan budget deal into 12 pieces so that appropriators can craft the 12 bills needed to keep the government open after Oct. 1.

Republicans objected to several technical moves Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) made to increase the amount of money available to agencies.

One maneuver switches more than $2.7 billion from State Department and other department budgets into the war funding account, which is not subject to the budget cap. The other change, which critics call a gimmick, nets savings by changing mandatory programs governed by the labor, health and education bill.  

“We are not interested in violating the spirit of the Ryan-Murray budget," ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said, referring to the agreement crafted by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and her Republican House counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.).

Appropriators were taken by surprise when the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Federal Housing Finance Agency will deliver some $4 billion less in offsetting revenue.

Mikulski defended her decision.

“I did not invent new money and I did not invent new tools," she said, noting that the Overseas Contingency Operations war funds are being used to shore up national security-related activities, not being plundered to pay for domestic social programs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is also marking up a Veterans Affairs spending bill on Thursday and an Agriculture measure.

Mikulski said she plans to complete all 12 bills in the committee by July 10, adding that she has secured weeks of floor time in June and July to try to pass some of the bills before the August recess. 

Because of the move on war funding, the State bill comes in at $39.6 billion in the Senate outline rather than the $42.4 billion in the House-adopted spending outline. 

The Senate allocations differ from those being used in the House, setting up some additional battles between the two chambers.
Defense gets $490 billion compared to $491 billion in the House while Transportation and Housing gets $54 billion compared to $52 billion.
The Financial Services bill, which involves funding to implement Wall Street reform, gets $22 billion instead of $21 billion.  
This story was updated at 1:27 p.m.