Bitter US federal budget battle nearing an end
The Republican-led US House of Representatives is set to pass a bipartisan US$1.1 trillion spending bill that would pay for the government's operations through October and finally put to rest the bitter budget battles of last year.
The massive measure fills out the details of the budget deal that Congress passed last month after a disastrous 16-day government shutdown in October. That deal gave relatively modest relief to the Pentagon and domestic agencies after deep budget cuts last year.
President Barack Obama said today he is "very pleased" that Congress has agreed on the budget measure and urged lawmakers to pass it promptly.
The Obama administration would be denied money to meet its full commitments to the International Monetary Fund but get much of the money it wanted to pay for implementation of the new health care law and the 2010 overhaul of financial regulations.
"This agreement shows the American people that we can compromise, and that we can govern," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski.
The collapse of the budget process last year was followed by a government shutdown. After that shutdown and debt crisis, House Budget committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray struck an agreement to avoid a repeat of the five percent cut to domestic agencies last year and to prevent the Pentagon from absorbing about US$20 billion in new cuts on top of last year's US$34 billion cut.
White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell says the measure is a "positive step."
To be sure, there is plenty for both parties to oppose in the legislation. Democrats must accept new money for abstinence education programs they often ridicule, for example.
The bill would avert spending cuts that threatened construction of new aircraft carriers and next-generation Joint Strike Fighters. It maintains rent subsidies for the poor, awards federal civilian and military workers a one percent raise and strengthens security at US embassies across the globe.
The bill also contains increases for veterans' medical care backed by both sides and fully funds the US$6.7 billion budget for food aid for low-income pregnant women and their children.