Congress Strikes $1.1 Trillion Spending Compromise to Avoid January Shutdown

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Senator Barbara Mikulski speaks with reporters in the basement of the Capitol before a vote in the Senate on Dec. 10, 2013

One month after Congress passed a two-year budget deal, leaders have struck a compromise allocating over $1 trillion to fund the government for the next year.

“There will be no shutdown,” said Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski while chewing on a cough drop, a sign of weariness after multiple face-to-face Capitol meetings this past weekend with House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers, as well as ranking committee members Senator Richard Shelby, the Republican from Alabama, and Representative Nita Lowey, the Democrat from New York.

“This is a really rare thing that we’ve been doing,” said Rogers. “I don’t know if it’s historic or not, but it is rare to try to do an omnibus bill for the entire government in less than 30 days interrupted by Christmas and New Year’s.” The last omnibus — which combines the federal government’s 12 spending bills into one huge measure — was passed in 2011.

“I can’t say enough good things about my members, the committee and especially the staff, who have been working day and night — they’re on fumes,” added Rogers, who also praised his working relationship with Mikulski.

Rogers said for first time since the Korean War, the overall discretionary number — $1.1 trillion — has fallen over the past four years. Politico’s David Rogers reported on Sunday that nondefense spending, when adjusted to reflect changes in the cost of living since 2008, would be about 10% or $53 billion less in 2014.

Over the past month, the members addressed over 130 riders, including one by Republicans that reportedly blocked the Environmental Protection Agency regulation of certain greenhouse-gas emissions. A Mikulski aide said that particular amendment is not included in the agreement. Mikulski said there are “no new” abortion riders and that there’s “nothing in the bill that blocks Obamacare,” addressing two topics that could have doomed negotiations. Mikulski also said there are no earmarks.

“We hope it will get a strong vote,” said Mikulski. “The fact is, is that this is a strong bipartisan bill, and it is a bicameral bill.”

“It’s reasonably clean,” said Rogers. “I went into the process with the idea that what I wanted was a benign bill. A bill that would fund the government adequately, that would not have any earthshaking changes, and I think that’s what we have.”

The bill, which will be filed and released to the public at around 8 p.m. on Monday night, includes a fix for some military veterans whose pension increases were trimmed by the budget deal signed into law by President Obama during the last week of 2013. “We made a down payment on the neediest, which were the disabled, of working age and the survivors,” said Mikulski.

The House is expected to vote on Tuesday on a measure that will keep the government open past its current Wednesday funding deadline while the chambers debate and vote on the bill over the next several days. “We just couldn’t get it done [in time],” said Mikulski. “We worked last night up till about 7 o’clock. We were done before Downton Abbey.”