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The Daily Guide - Waynesville, MO
  • House approves funding for Fort Leonard Wood

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  • The U.S. House approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Wednesday that Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler says will help provide funding for Fort Leonard Wood.
    The bill swept through the House on a 359-67 vote and was on track for a big Senate vote by week's end. Republicans voted for the bill by a 2 1/2-1 margin, and just three Democrats were opposed.
    The measure funds virtually every agency of government and contains compromises on almost every one of its 1,582 pages. It covers the one-third of government spending subject to annual decisions by Congress and the White House, programs that have absorbed the brunt of budget cuts racked up since Republicans reclaimed control of the House three years ago.
    Excluded are the giant benefit programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps that run on autopilot and are increasingly driving the government deeper into debt.
    The Pentagon faces a tight squeeze even as it avoids what would have been another $20 billion wave of automatic cuts. The Pentagon's core budget is basically frozen at $487 billion after most accounts absorbed an 8 percent automatic cut last year.
    However, according to Hartzler, the bill provides more than $100 million in construction funds for Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base, ensuring the installations receive the materials needed.
    Adding $6 billion to Obama's war request provides some relief to readiness accounts, however, though active duty troop levels would still be cut by 40,000 to 1.36 million. It includes $85 billion for overseas military operations, a slight cut from last year.
    “The bill provides for the common defense and prioritizes spending on national security, transportation, and basic health research,” Hartzler said. “In addition, it takes important steps to rein in government overspending.”
    The measure changes a Ryan-Murray provision cutting military pension cost-of-living increases for working age retirees to exempt disabled veterans and surviving spouses from the cut. The Veterans Administration gets an almost automatic boost of $2.3 billion, almost 4 percent, driven by increased health care costs.
    The lowest-common-denominator bill doesn't contain big-ticket wins for either side, but the simple fact that a deal came together was seen as a win for Congress as an institution and its band of 81 appropriators. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, strongly pushed for a deal, even though the end product was a six-inch-high "omnibus" compilation of what was supposed to be a dozen separate spending bills. Presidents and lawmakers alike deride such measures.
    The alternatives, however, were to allow automatic spending cuts to strike for a second year and risk another politically debilitating government shutdown.
    Democrats celebrated winning an addition $1 billion over last year for the Head Start early childhood education program and excluding from the bill a host of conservative policy "riders" advanced by the GOP.
    Page 2 of 2 - Civilian federal workers would get their first pay hike in four years, even if it is just 1 percent. The bill contains a familiar provision backed by postal worker unions prohibiting the Postal Service from ending Saturday mail delivery and closing rural post offices even as it hemorrhages money.
    The bill also blocks the Federal Emergency Management Agency from increasing flood insurance premiums on people whose homes are found to be in flood zones after FEMA remapping, a strike against changes enacted in 2012.
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