Military leaders welcome House GOP spending bill

Military leaders welcome House GOP spending bill

Credit: Associated Press

Military leaders welcome House GOP spending bill

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Associated Press

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 5 at 1:39 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's military leaders are welcoming a House Republican spending bill, saying it would ease some of the pain of budget cuts hitting the Pentagon.

Army Gen. Raymond Odierno told a House Appropriations panel on Tuesday that the spending measure that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September would mitigate at least a third of the service's problems.

The bill would leave in place automatic cuts of 7.8 percent to the Pentagon that kicked in last Friday, but it would boost funds for military readiness.

The head of the Navy, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, said the difference for the service would be like night and day, with operations allowed to move ahead.

The military has complained about the combination of across-the-board cuts and the government operating at last year's spending levels.

The GOP effort is part of a huge spending measure released Monday that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September -- and head off a potential government shutdown later this month.

"Our goal is to cut spending, not to shut the government down," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The measure would leave in place automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon ordered Friday by President Barack Obama after months of battling with Republicans over the budget. But the House Republicans' legislation would award the Defense Department its detailed 2013 budget while other agencies would be frozen in place at 2012 levels.

The unprecedented across-the-board cuts would then be applied to the day-to-day budgets of every federal agency except Veterans Affairs, which is exempt from them.

The GOP funding measure is set to advance through the House on Thursday in hopes of preventing a government shutdown when a six-month spending bill passed last September runs out March 27. The latest measure blends updated 2013 budget measures for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments -- giving much-sought increases for military operations and maintenance efforts and veterans' health programs -- but puts most the rest of the government on autopilot.

Senate Democrats want to add more detailed budgets for domestic Cabinet agencies but it will take GOP help to do so. The House measure also denies money sought by Obama and his Democratic allies to implement the signature 2010 laws overhauling the health care system and financial regulation.

After accounting for the across-the-board cuts, domestic agencies would face cuts exceeding 5 percent when compared with last year. But Republicans carved out a host of exemptions seeking to protect especially important functions, such as federal prisons and firefighting efforts in the West, as well as new funding for embassy security and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The FBI and the Border Patrol would be able to maintain current staffing levels and would not have to furlough employees.

The legislation would provide about $2 billion more than the current level to beef up security at U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions worldwide. Last September, a terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

A project to repair the iconic Capitol Dome could stay on track and NASA would be protected from the harshest effects of the automatic cuts, known in Washington-speak as a sequester.

The across-the-board cuts would carve $85 billion in spending from the government's $3.6 trillion budget for this year, concentrating the cuts in the approximately $1 trillion allocated to the day-to-day agency operating budgets set by Congress each year. Those so-called discretionary accounts received big boosts in the first two years of Obama's presidency, when Democrats controlled Congress, but have borne the brunt of the cuts approved as Obama and Republicans have grappled over the budget.

Both Democrats and Republicans for months have warned the cuts are draconian and would slow the growth of the economy, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, for instance, says they would slow the economy by 0.6 percent and cost about 750,000 jobs.

AP-WF-03-05-13 1632GMT

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