By Lindsay Koshgarian
The budget bill is a longer read than War and Peace. Here’s what it says. Photo by Taymaz Valley, courtesy of Flickr.
Since Congress released its massive budget bill on Tuesday night, we’ve been joining other budget watchers in poring over the bill to see how Congress intends to spend $1.1 trillion in fiscal year 2015. At 1,600 pages, the bill is longer than the 1,300 page classic novel War and Peace – no light read. And Congress has until midnight tonight to take action or the federal government will shut down. Here’s an initial overview of how Congress is dealing with hot topics in the budget, and a few controversial surprises:
Spending Caps and Immigration
The bill adheres to the Ryan-Murray spending caps negotiated during last year’s government shutdown, for a total of $1.1 trillion in federal spending.
The bill funds most of the government through September 30, 2015 (the end of the fiscal year), but funds the Department of Homeland Security only through February 27, since lawmakers intend to return to the subject of immigration following President Obama’s executive order.
Military Spending, the F-35, and Military Pay Raises
The bill provides $490.2 billion in base Pentagon spending. On top of that, it provides war funding (also called Overseas Contingency Operations) of another $64 billion, for a total of $554 billion in Pentagon spending.
It includes a 1% military and civilian pay raise, which is lower than the 1.8% previously planned, and permits an increase in military prescription co-pays and a decrease in military housing allowances.
The bill provides $5 billion for fighting ISIS, compared to $5.6 billion the President requested.
While cutting military benefits, the bill includes a spending spree for defense contractors, including an additional $479 million to purchase four F-35s for the Air Force and Navy (two each) that the Pentagon didn’t request, as well as an additional three Littoral Combat Ships.
Surprises: Dodd-Frank and Campaign Contributions
The bill includes a reform of the Dodd-Frank law which would remove some of the separation between financial derivatives and traditional bank accounts protected by FDIC. This would weaken protections that were supposed to help prevent another financial crisis like the one that spurred the Great Recession.
There is a proposal to increase limits for personal contributions to political parties by ten times, from $32,400 to $324,000.
According to the official budget process, all of these features should have been debated as part of 12 separate bills over a period of months. Instead, Congress has crammed them all into a 1,600 page monster and given themselves only a few days to sort out some of the most important decisions they’ll make all year – all with the threat of a government shutdown looming over the nation.