House Republicans on Monday unveiled a plan to fund the government through September and to begin implementing $85 billion in sequester spending cuts, but only after allowing the Pentagon some flexibility over massive cuts it would have to make.
The legislation, up for a House vote later this week, would fund the federal government until Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. Spending in the new plan is capped at $982 billion.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said the legislation accomplishes two crucial goals. It avoids the government shutdown that would have hit when a temporary funding measure expires. It also allows the Pentagon to shift its funding to lessen the impact of the reductions that kicked in Friday, after Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a deal offsetting the across-the-board sequestration cuts.
"It is clear that this nation is facing some very hard choices, and it's up to Congress to pave the way for our financial future," Rogers said in a statement. "But right now, we must act quickly and try to make the most of a difficult situation."
The bill, known as the continuing resolution, or CR, does not restore any of sequestration's spending reductions, which will reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. With the exception of defense and military construction, which are given some additional funding, all departments will be funded at 2012 levels, with additional reductions called for under sequestration.
Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, objected to the proposal, saying it would "lock most of the federal government into outdated plans and spending levels."
President Obama, however, signaled that he would not veto the Republican legislation even though he vehemently opposed the sequestration cuts and warned that they would undermine the nation's economic recovery.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would be happy to avoid another self-inflicted fiscal crisis with Congress, particularly after the unsuccessful effort to defeat the sequestration cuts.
"We certainly support the idea that, as the president said from here, that we should not create another crisis on top of this one, another manufactured showdown, that Congress ought to pass a CR without drama," Carney told reporters.
Carney said Obama would back a spending plan that is "practical and nonpolitical and consistent with the levels of the Budget Control Act."
The CR would provide $518 billion in nonwar funding for the Defense Department, Rogers said, which is equal to 2012 levels plus an additional $87 billion for U.S. military activities related to the war on terror overseas, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Appropriators added some money for programs affected by the sequester "to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, or to ensure good government and program oversight."
One such provision provides additional funding for the FBI and federal prisons. Additional funding is also provided for nuclear weapon modernization.
Appropriators made sure additional money was included in the bill to ensure that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can maintain all 34,000 of its detention beds.
ICE announced last week that it had released 2,000 illegal immigrant detainees in anticipation of the 5 percent budget cut expected under sequestration.