Federal budget deal for 2015: What's in it for you?
Here are 12 ways that the spending provisions and 'riders' in the budget bill, passed Thursday by the House, affect many Americans.
Washington — After a contentious House vote Thursday, a bipartisan deal to keep the federal government funded through next September is moving closer to President Obama’s desk for a signature.
It’s a 1,600 page, $1.1 trillion measure that has critics on both left and right. But it got enough support in the House to pass (with 57 Democrats joining most Republicans) and is expected to pass the Senate within days.
What’s in it for the voters who elected this Congress?
Here’s a snapshot of the spending provisions and "riders" in the bill that affect many Americans:
No shutdown. The best news may be that the federal government is poised to avoid the chaos of a partial shutdown, which would occur if no deal is reached. Lawmakers seem to have gotten the message that the public doesn't like to see the threat of a shutdown used as a bargaining chip in policy debates. "On a positive note, the bill includes 11 of 12 full-year appropriations bills, which avoids a government shutdown and makes real decisions about how the government allocates its resources," the independent group Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says in an online analysis.
More debt. This bill continues Congress’s long tradition of not balancing the budget. The good news for taxpayers is they don’t have to pay upfront for all the federal spending that’s occurring this fiscal year. The bad news is an already-high national debt creeps a bit higher. On the fiscal discipline front, Congress is hewing to the so-called Ryan-Murray plan, a bipartisan 2013 deal to pare back federal deficits.
School lunch rules relaxed. Standards that promote healthier school lunches, including more whole grains, remain in place after Republicans failed in a bid to allow schools to opt out. But the bill does give schools greater flexibility on whole-grain requirements and puts off rules to lower sodium content.
Recreational marijuana snubbed. Following voter passage of a referendum in the District of Columbia supporting recreational pot, the budget bill prohibits the use of federal or local funds for implementing the referendum. It's unclear what practical effect this will have, the Associated Press says. Separately, the budget bill blocks the Justice Department from raiding medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are permitted.
Light bulbs diversity. The bill prohibits funding that would enforce federal standards, rooted in a 2007 law, designed to promote energy efficiency by phasing out incandescent bulbs. In practice, a huge switch toward newer, more efficient bulbs has already occurred, but this move might mean that old-style incandescents are easier to find if you want one.
Immigration battle postponed. For the appropriations package dealing with Homeland Security, Republicans intentionally gave it funding that won't last the whole fiscal year. This allows a Republican-controlled Congress in the new year to revisit funding for immigration, with an eye on restraining Mr. Obama's controversial "executive amnesty" (as Republicans call it) for many unauthorized immigrants.
Military pay raise and more. According to The Washington Post, the bill contains a 1 percent pay raise for personnel in the armed forces, a boost in funds to confront sexual assault in the military, and more funding for Veterans Affairs as that agency enacts reforms following a scandal over poor treatment of patients at VA hospitals.
National security efforts. The bill contains increased funding to address cybersecurity threats, plus overseas-operations funding that includes $3.4 billion to continue the air campaign against Islamic State militants and $1.6 billion to train Iraqi forces.
An anti-Ebola campaign. The bill provides $5.4 billion of Obama's $6.2 billion request to fight the Ebola virus at home and abroad, including efforts to strengthen public health systems in at-risk countries.
Less money to fight climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency budget gets cut by $60 million to $8.1 billion, or 21 percent below peak levels in 2010. That's one of several indicators in the bill of reluctance among Republicans to spend money on efforts to mitigate climate change.
An IRS with fewer teeth. The bill cuts Internal Revenue Service funding by $346 million to $10.9 billion. Although supporters of this move see it as a deserved squeeze on an agency that has behaved badly, critics say it's penny-wise and pound-foolish. The cuts make it harder for the IRS to ensure tax compliance, leaving the federal budget (and hence most taxpayers) worse off.
Riskier banks, perhaps. The bill relieves banks from having to move exotic financial products called "swaps" into separately capitalized affiliates that aren't eligible for federal benefits such as deposit insurance. This reverses a provision in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act designed to force banks to bear more of the costs of risky behavior. Critics say the switch will increase the sense on Wall Street that banks enjoy "too big to fail" protection from the government, while supporters say regulators still have other tools to curb risks that can lead to financial crises.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.