Senate unveils catchall funding bill

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Senate Democrats and Republicans Monday night released a catchall government funding bill that denies President Barack Obama new money for implementing signature first-term accomplishments such as new regulations on Wall Street and his expansion of government health care subsidies.

The bill does, however, provide modest additional funding for domestic priorities such as health research and highway projects.

Monday’s measure is the product of bipartisan negotiations and is the legislative vehicle to fund the day-to-day operations of government through Sept. 30 — and prevent a government shutdown when current funding runs out March 27.

It sets a path for government in the wake of across-the-board spending cuts that took effect March 1. In most cases the minor changes in agency budgets amount to housekeeping within a trillion-dollar cap for the day-to-day operations of agencies in the current budget year.

Passage in the Senate this week seems routine and could presage an end to a mostly overlooked battle between House Republicans and Obama and his Senate Democratic allies over the annual spending bills required to fund federal agency operations.

The measure expands upon House GOP legislation that passed last week, adding sometimes symbolic funding and flexibility for scores of programs and challenges House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who warned Democrats last week not to load the measure up too much.

But each of the additional items was drawn from earlier informal House-Senate agreements, and top Senate Appropriations Committee Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama has signed on.

The bipartisan measure comes as Washington girds for weeks of warfare over the budget for next year and beyond as both House and Senate Budget Committees this week take up blueprints for the upcoming 2014 budget year.

The wrap-up spending bill is a lowest common denominator approach that gives the Pentagon much-sought relief for readiness accounts but adds money sought by Democrats like Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., for domestic programs such as Head Start, health research, transportation and housing.

The Senate measure would award seven Cabinet departments — including Defense, Commerce, justice, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs — with their line-by-line detailed budgets, but would leave the rest of the government running on autopilot at current levels. All domestic agencies except for Veterans Affairs would then be subject to a 5 percent across-the-board cut while the Pentagon would bear an 8 percent cut.

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