It looks like the Senate is set to pass a two-year budget agreement that will roll back a portion of the "sequestration" budget cuts. The bill survived an early procedural vote, 67 to 33 and will come up for a final vote later this evening.
— Discretionary spending would be set at $1.012 trillion for 2014 and $1.014 trillion for fiscal 2015. This is basically all federal agency spending and doesn't include "mandatory" programs like Social Security or Medicare or emergency spending on wars. It's also higher than the $967 billion that was allocated next year under current law.
Now, we still don't know what each particular agency will receive in funding. That will get determined by the appropriations committees in the House and Senate, who now have to finish up spending bills by Jan. 15 to avoid a government shutdown. Think of the current bill as setting an overall cap on discretionary spending and making that process easier.
— The bill would provide partial relief from the automatic “sequestration” spending cuts, giving agencies an extra $63 billion over two years, split between defense and domestic programs. So for 2014, the defense budget will be $520.5 billion and the remaining domestic discretionary programs, including health, transportation, and housing, will get $491.8 billion.
— Airline security fees would rise from $5 to $11.20 for a typical round-trip ticket starting July 1, 2014. That change would raise $13 billion over the next 10 years.
— The bill would reduce retirement benefits for any military retirees who are under the age of 62 by reducing the automatic cost-of-living benefit increase each year. (The bill would not affect disability compensation, but some groups have expressed concern that the change could affect disabled veterans who retired early.)* The change gets phased in gradually — in December 2014, the rate would be decreased by 0.25 percent, and in December 2015 it would be reduced by 0.5 percent. This would save $6 billion over the decade.
—The bill would increase the pension contributions paid by federal civilian workers hired after Jan. 1, 2014 by 1.3 percentage points. This would raise $6 billion.
—The bill extends Bureau of Customs and Border Protection user fees. This would raise $7 billion.
— The bill restricts access to Social Security death records, ostensibly in order to prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns. This change is expected to save $269 million.
— The bill increases the premiums paid by corporations to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp, which backstops pension benefits. This would raise $8 billion.
— The bill gets rid of an existing requirement that the Maritime Administration reimburse other federal agencies for any extra costs associated with shipping food aid on U.S. ships. This would save $731 million.
— The bill cancels $1.6 billion in unobligated balances from Justice and Treasury Department funds that seize assets from criminals.
— The bill caps the annual salary for government contractors at $487,000, indexed to inflation. (There are exceptions in place for scientists, engineers and a few other specialists.)
— The bill gives the Treasury Department greater access to prison data to prevent prisoners from claiming improper payments. This would save $80 million.
— The bill approves a U.S.-Mexico agreement on oil and gas exploration in waters outside their exclusive economic zones.
— The bill permanently extends a requirement that states receiving mineral lease payments contribute to the federal government’s administrative costs. This step would save $415 million.
--Here was the broader rationale behind this particular budget deal.
-- Congress is lowering the ceiling on contractor pay. It could affect more workers by lifting the floor.