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A look at some items contained in omnibus spending package
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The House, and later the Senate, today will consider the conference agreement on HR 2055, Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2012 – the so-called omnibus spending package.
The package contains the nine remaining FY 2012 spending bills, and is consistent with the $1.043 trillion cap on discretionary spending set by the Budget Control Act. Except for Defense, spending levels on the nine bills at spending levels that are generally higher than the House versions. Funding levels are well below those proposed by President Obama, however. Combined, the nine bills provide about $915 billion in discretionary spending.
Along with with the omnibus, the House will consider two measures dealing with disaster funding: HR 3672, which provides $8.1 billion in disaster aid, and HConRes 94, which offsets the disaster funding by directing the House Enrolling Clerk to add language to the disaster bill, before sending it to the president, making across-the-board rescissions of 1.83 percent to discretionary accounts in most FY 2012 spending bills.
Background: House Republicans late this week introduced a stand-alone omnibus spending bill that is nearly identical to the negotiated conference version, and threatened to pass it. The maneuver sparked intensive negotiations to reach agreement on both a payroll tax extension and a year-end omnibus that could be passed this weekend and allow Congress to leave for the year. As a result of progress made in those talks, a final agreement was reached on the omnibus conference, allowing that measure to move forward for floor consideration by the House and Senate.
The following are some details of some topics contained in the massive package:
Energy & Water. This includes funding for the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and related agencies. The measure provides a total of $32.1 billion, $291 million more than the FY 2011 level, but $4.5 billion less than the administration's request.
The conference agreement funds Energy Department programs at a generally higher level than the House-passed bill (HR 2354), and provides increased funding for nuclear power research programs over FY 2011 levels.
In addition, recent fights over disaster funding have led to the removal of emergency funding originally provided to the Army Corps of Engineers for recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. These provisions were included in a separate measure which includes offsets for the cost of the emergency funds (HR 3672).
The agreement provides a total of $25.7 billion for the Energy Department, $4.9 billion (16%) less than requested and $342 million (1%) less than the FY 2011 level.
The measure also prohibits the agencies funded through the bill from being used to enforce federal light bulb efficiency standards.
Energy Programs. The measure contains funding for the operation, research and development of a variety of energy programs.
Electricity Transmission & Distribution. The Energy Department's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability oversees the security and reliability of energy infrastructure and leads federal efforts, such as "smart grid" research programs, designed to overhaul the national electricity grid.
The measure appropriates $139 million for the program, $98 million (41%) less than requested and $5 million (4%) less than the FY 2011 level.
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. The measure provides funding equal to the FY 2011 level of $1.8 billion for the Energy Department's energy efficiency and renewable-energy account, $1.4 billion (42%) less than requested. This account funds energy assistance programs, and research and development of alternative energy sources such as biomass fuels, hydrogen technologies and solar power.
The measure includes provisions to allow the Energy Department to waive the allocation formula for state weatherization grants in order to allow unspent funds to be redirected.
Fossil Fuels. The measure provides $534 million in funding for research and development of fossil fuels, including ways to make the use of such fuels more efficient and sustainable. The amount provided by the measure is $83 million (15%) more than requested.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The measure provides the administration's requested amount of $193 million for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The reserve is an emergency oil supply located in Texas and Louisiana that contains light, sweet crude oil. The reserve was created after the oil embargo of 1973 and 1974, and is maintained by the Energy Department. It is designed to provide the federal government with an emergency oil supply during a disruption in commercial oil supplies.
Nuclear Energy. The measure provides $769 million for nuclear power development and research, $15 million (2%) more than requested and $37 million (5%) more than the FY 2011 level.
Nuclear-energy funding includes multiple programs — such as spacecraft propulsion systems, cancer treatment technology and reactor technologies — that provide 20% of the nation's electricity.
Both the House and Senate have emphasized the importance of safety in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi disaster, noting that the incident has reinforced the imperative to invest in the safety and security of U.S. nuclear facilities. Consequently, the measure contains policy provisions to require NRC licensees to reexamine seismic hazards to ensure compliance with existing requirements.
Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for civil flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects, employing more than 23,000 people. The measure provides $5 billion for the corps operations, investigations and construction, $144 million (3%) more than FY 2011 levels and $429 million (9%) more than requested.
Operations & Maintenance. The Operation and Maintenance account provides funding to the corps to clear and maintain various inland waterways and lock and dam facilities around the country.
The bill provides $2.4 billion for waterway operations and maintenance, $47 million (2%) more than FY 2011 levels and $98 million (4%) more than requested.
Water Project Construction. General construction funding is provided for projects relating to navigation, flood and storm damage mitigation and aquatic ecosystem restoration.
The measure provides $1.7 billion for general water project construction, $95 million (6%) less than the FY 2011 level, but $240 million (13%) more than the request. In addition, the bill provides $252 million for Mississippi River waterway related projects.
Flood & Coastal Emergency Funding. The measure provides the requested amount of $27 million for training programs to prepare for and respond to floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. No funding was provided for the account in FY 2011.
Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau of Reclamation is charged with developing water supplies and reclaiming arid lands in the western United States. The bureau, which is part of the Interior Department, is responsible for 472 dams and 348 reservoirs, supplying water to 31 million people and 10 million acres of farmland. It also supplies hydroelectric power.
The measure provides $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, $29 million (2%) more than requested.
Policy Provisions. As part of the conference agreement, the measure contains a variety of policy provisions to limit the use of funds provided by the bill. Notably the bill would:
– Require agencies to use the E-verify program to verify the legal immigration status of any employee hired after the bill's enactment.
– Prohibit agencies from entering into a contract with any business or service provider that has been convicted of a felony or has any unpaid tax liability.
-- Prohibit the agencies funded through the bill from being used to enforce federal light bulb efficiency standards.
EPA-Related Policy Provisions. The measure contains policy provisions that prohibit the EPA from using funds provided by the bill to issue regulations or require clean air permits for greenhouse gas emission resulting from livestock. The agreement also bars the EPA from imposing reporting requirements regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
FTC. The agreement provides $312 million for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The Congressional Budget Office estimates $129 million of that amount will be offset by collected fees, for a net direct appropriation of $183 million. This is $8 million (5%) more than FY 2011, but $16 million (8%) less than requested. The agreement prohibits the FTC from reporting on the marketing of food to children unless it conducts a cost-benefit analysis.
SEC/CFTC. The agreement provides $1.3 billion for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), $136 million (11%) more than FY 2011 and $86 million (6%) less than the request. The agreement also includes language clarifying that the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission may use funding for this agreement or any other to create a joint advisory committee to make recommendations on emerging regulatory issues.
The agreement includes language sought by the administration authorizing the transfer of additional funds to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; an additional $10 million is provided for salaries and expenses.
USAID. The measure provides $1.3 billion for USAID operating expenses, $156 million less than the president's request, and equal to the current level. The total includes $255 million provided in the OCO account. The agreement also freezes new foreign service hiring at USAID and assumes the closure of three overseas USAID missions.
In addition, the agreement continues a provision requiring USAID to notify Congress in advance of opening any new mission overseas, beginning capital construction of missions or the long-term leasing of offices.
The measure appropriates $47 million for the USAID inspector general.
Disaster Assistance. The agreement provides $975 million in international disaster assistance, $112 million more than the current level and $114 million more than the president's request. The total includes $150 million provided in the OCO account.
The account funds humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction in countries affected by natural and man-made disasters, including the tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan, as well as support for disaster mitigation, disaster risk reduction, prevention and preparedness. Such efforts include the purchase of commodities, such as temporary shelter, blankets, supplementary and therapeutic food, potable water, medical supplies and agricultural rehabilitation. Program beneficiaries include disaster victims, conflict victims and internally displaced persons.
International Financial Institutions. The measure provides $2.6 billion for international financial institutions, including $1.9 billion for the World Bank. The total is $697 million less than requested, but $674 million more than the current level. The measure also limits the U.S. share of callable capital — potential funds the U.S. would have to extend — at various development banks.
International Organizations. The measure appropriates $1.6 billion for membership in international organizations and programs, including funds provided in the OCO account. Such organizations include the United Nations and its affiliates, the Organization of American States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Pan American Health Organization, the Organization of American States and other inter-American organizations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and International War Crimes Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
The measure conditions funds for the U.N. Human Rights Council and withholds 15% of funds for U.N. agencies until audits are made fully available to the U.S. government and are published on a website.
The measure also includes $10 million for the International Panel on Climate Change/U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, $50 million for the Strategic Climate Fund and $90 million for the Global Environment Facility.
Other Provisions. The measure also provides the following:
Global Agriculture & Food Security — $1.2 billion for food security and agriculture development in countries threatened by widespread hunger and famine.
Russia & Eastern Europe — $627 million for a consolidated account for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Libya — $20 million to build democratic institutions in Libya.
United Nations Headquarters — Restricts funds for the design, renovation or construction of the UN headquarters in New York in excess of the agreed-upon assessments of the United States.
NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.