House’s CR protects the military and national security, but little else

March 6, 2013

The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a Continuing Resolution to fund the government. The idea is to keep the overall level of the sequester's cuts in place, but to shield certain military projects and national security efforts from the pain. As for domestic spending? Well, those programs are out of luck.


Sgt. Janiece Marquez, 25, tries to slide under a fence as the rest of her team digs to help her. Marquez, from Bosque Farms, N.M., was deployed to Khost, Afghanistan, in 2008 as a linguist and interrogator.
Andrew Craft / FOR THE WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE

The changes include $10.4 billion more funding for defense operations and maintenance "to prepare our troops for combat and peace-time missions, flight time and battle training," according to a statement from House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rodgers (R-Ky.).

It also would increase funding for defense health and military family programs by $233 billion above last year's levels, among other changes. Such programs would still technically be subject to the sequestration's automatic spending cuts, but the CR would raise the base level of funding to shield them from the full impact.

The House CR also would give federal agencies more leeway to protect certain defense, border security and immigration enforcement efforts from the automatic cuts. By design, the sequestration was intended to be a blunt instrument that didn't pick and choose which programs to target. The House GOP's bill, by contrast, would allow federal agencies to spare certain programs, though they would have to find reductions elsewhere to comply with the overall level of cuts. These changes would allow the government to provide more funding for nuclear weapons modernization and federal prisons; keep border patrol, FBI, and embassy security staffing at current levels; and require Immigration and Customs Enforcement to keep immigrant detention at the current mandatory level of 34,000 beds filled.

House Republicans say their bill will both help the government avoid another budget crisis and spare the most vital programs from damaging cuts. “The legislation will avoid a government shutdown on March 27th, prioritize DoD and Veterans programs, and allow the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has,” Rogers said in a statement.

Democrats, however, argue that Republicans' priorities are misplaced, shielding the military from some of the worst budget cuts while leaving many domestic efforts out in the cold. Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee list the many programs (pdf) that remain vulnerable and underfunded, ranging from supplemental nutrition for low-income women and children and FEMA grants to peacekeeping funds in Somalia and investments in federal highways.

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Neil Irwin · March 6, 2013