Agreement reached on details of $1 trln U.S. spending bill-Mikulski

by Reuters
Monday, 13 January 2014 23:56 GMT

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Negotiators in the U.S. Congress have reached agreement on a $1 trillion spending bill aimed at keeping the federal government open through Sept. 30, Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said on Monday.

The bill, which is expected to be filed at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT) for final passage by Saturday, eases some of the across-the-board "sequester" spending cuts by boosting spending on domestic and military programs during the 2014 fiscal year by $45 billion.

Mikulski told reporters that the measure will reverse planned military pension cuts for disabled veterans and does not contain any provision that blocks the implementation of "Obamacare" health insurance reforms.

But asked whether President Barack Obama's signature health care reform law will get an increase in funding, she declined to answer, saying only, "Obamacare lives another day."

The spending measure fills in the details of a budget agreement passed in December, following a 16-day shutdown of many government agencies in October that was prompted largely by disputes over Obamacare funding.

Another shutdown was scheduled to occur at midnight Wednesday if Congress failed to approve new spending authority, and a three-day temporary extension will be needed to get the full spending bill passed this week.

Negotiations bogged down as lawmakers attempted to attach policy provisions on issues ranging from restricting abortions to curtailing regulation of carbon emissions. Most of these were successfully fought off, including new abortion provisions, Mikulski said.

Democratic aides said the bill includes no new provisions prohibiting regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, nor forestry and stream management.

The partial reversal of military pension cuts is aimed at fixing a controversial part of the December budget deal that helps to pay for about $6 billion worth of near-term spending increases. Military retirees of working age were to see smaller cost-of-living increases in their pensions starting in 2015, but it was later discovered that the change was inadvertently applied to disabled veterans and survivors of deceased veterans as well.

While the spending bill will reverse the cuts for disabled veterans and survivors, many Republicans in Congress want to cancel the cuts for all retired military service members, who often collect pensions while pursuing second careers.

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