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House passes annual government spending bill

Thornberry says bill cuts spending, protects national security, restricts overreach

Washington, DC, December 12, 2014
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending bill yesterday that provides funding for nearly all of the government’s operations through the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2015. The exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which will receive funding for less than 90 days, expiring on February 27, 2015.  Under the agreement, overall discretionary spending has been reduced by $165 billion since Fiscal Year 2010.  The legislation passed with a bipartisan vote of  219 to 206.  Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) voted in favor of the bill.   
“This bill fulfills our constitutional responsibility to fund the government, while also reining in spending and executive and other federal overreach,” said Rep. Thornberry.  “We have been able to reduce spending by $165 billion since 2010.  We plan to build on this progress with additional meaningful cuts and changes when Congress returns in January with Republican majorities in the House and the Senate.”
The bill funds important Department of Defense programs and projects, offers a pay raise for troops, and provides resources to help prepare for current and future threats.  The defense portion of the bill also includes funding for local national security facilities, including missions at Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls.  In addition, it contains nearly $2.8 billion for Bell Helicopter’s V-22  and other aircraft programs, much of which is done in Amarillo. It also increases funding for nuclear weapons activities—much of which is performed at Pantex—to $8.2 billion.  To help address the backlog of deferred maintenance on physical infrastructure in the nuclear weapons facilities, the agreement provides $37.4 million specifically for recapitalization projects at Pantex. 
The BLM Red River land dispute issue is addressed in the funding bill as well. It includes language to help ensure that the Bureau of Land Management defers any final decision-making regarding land use plans along the Red River in Texas until appropriate surveys have been conducted to determine ownership. 
Notably, the legislation provides no new funding for Obamacare; cuts $345.6 million from the Internal Revenue Service and $60 million from the Environmental Protection Agency; gives states the power to relax Obama Administration’s onerous school lunch rules; also, includes many provisions to rein in regulatory overreach.  

The bill also offers emergency funding to help combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to address the domestic and international Ebola crisis.  

Bill Highlights – 

Spending Cuts: Cuts total discretionary spending for the 5th year in a row, which reduces spending to levels lower than under George W. Bush in constant dollars.     

Limited Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Funding: Funds DHS only until Feb. 27, 2015, (less than 90 days) so the new Republican Congress can tackle the issue of Obama’s immigration action in February.

Defense Spending: Funds our nation’s security, military readiness, support for our troops at home and abroad, and care for military families.  It also includes emergency funds to pay for operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

          • Military Personnel and Pay: The bill fully funds the pay raise for the military and provides $215 million above the request to fully fund the cost-of-living allowance for military retirees. 

          • Pantex:  Increases funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons activities including Pantex.  The bill also provides $37.4 million specifically for recapitalization projects at Pantex.  

          • Bell:  Includes about $2.8 billion total for Bell V-22 and helicopter programs, much of which is done in Amarillo, including procurement of 19 new Ospreys and 28 new helicopters for the Marine Corps.

          • Sheppard AFB:  Includes funding for activities at Sheppard AFB in the personnel account and operations and maintenance account.

Red River: Includes report language to help ensure that the Bureau of Land Management does not make any final decisions regarding land use plans along the Red River in Texas until appropriate surveys have been conducted to determine ownership. 

Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Cuts IRS funding by $345.6 million and includes extensive oversight requirements, bringing IRS funding to below FY 2008 levels.  The bill also prohibits funding to target organizations for regulatory scrutiny based on their political beliefs. 

Restricts Clean Water Act (CWA): Restricts the application of the CWA in certain agricultural areas, including farm ponds and irrigation ditches.

Environmental Protection Agency: Cuts EPA by $60 million and reduces its staffing to the lowest level since 1989.

GIPSA:  Includes restrictions on the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from implementing regulations harmful to the livestock and poultry industry. 

Light Bulbs: Bans the Administration’s onerous “light bulb” standard.

Obamacare: Provides no new funding for Obamacare and blocks the Obamacare slush fund.  Cuts the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) by $10 million and continues restrictions on using taxpayer dollars to lobby for Obamacare.

Department of Justice: Prohibits implementation of a potential Arms Trade Treaty and increases funding for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program by $6.5 million to $245 million.  The HIDTA program was created by Congress to provide assistance to State law enforcement agencies in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions in the United States.  Recently, Randall and Potter County sheriffs have petitioned to be deemed a HIDTA area. 

Dodd-Frank: Amends the swaps “push-out” requirement included in the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform law.  This regulation would require banks to separate, or push out, their derivatives business from the part of the institution that is federally insured.  Opponents of the push out provision say it will be costly to financial institutions while not actually reducing risk to the financial system.  Former Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has expressed opposition to the provision.

Second Amendment: Prohibits funding for the EPA to regulate lead content in ammunition or fishing tackle. 

Department of Transportation (DOT): Suspends DOT regulations requiring two nights of rest after a week of driving for long-haul truckers.

Export-Import Bank: Prohibit the Export-Import Bank and OPIC from blocking coal and other power-generation projects – helping to increase exports of U.S. goods and services. 

Abortion: Continues the ban on public funding for abortions in DC and a ban on using federal funding for federal prisoners.