The Ingredients in Congress’ Spending Bill
Some of the bill’s head-scratching provisions are deal breakers for support in both parties
Fruitcake, the much-maligned holiday treat, has a deceptive name. There’s dried pieces of “fruit” and there’s spongy “cake.” And then there are nuts, spices and alcohol.
In that vein, it’s similar to what Congress calls a “spending bill.” There’s language in it to ensure the federal government and its many programs are funded. And then there’s provisions on travel to Cuba, a D.C. abortion funding ban for poor women, aid to combat AIDS in famine stricken countries, and cuts (not spending) to an education grant program for better-performing public schools.
Spending bills are Congress’ fruitcake. And the latest bill is out just in time for the holidays.
Here’s a quick, but closer look at three non-budget related item in versions of Congress’ $1 trillion government spending bill:
1. Abortion funding ban for poor women in D.C.
It’s common knowledge that the District of Columbia doesn’t have statehood. It has no representative in Congress to lobby or vote out of office. Still lawmakers intend to extend a ban on local taxpayer dollars for abortions. Congress imposed the ban as part of a deal that avoided a government shutdown in April. D.C. has been free to spend on women’s reproductive health services for the last two decades, but only when Democrats have controlled the White House and Congress, the AP reports.
Read more here.
2. Travel restrictions on Cuba
One component of the spending bill could tighten travel restriction on Cuba. The Obama administration relaxed restrictions in 2009, leading to more visits and money transfers by Cuban-Americans with familial ties to the communist country, the New York Times reports. Some Cuban-American Republican members of the House have argued the relaxed restrictions benefit the Cuban government more than its people.
Read more here.
3. Humanitarian aid to AIDS and famine stricken countries
The U.S. Department Health and Human Services also runs the government’s Global Health initiatives. Budget negotiators have been able to secure $5.54 billion to fight AIDS overseas, increasing Global Health’s funding to $8.16 billion, Politico reports. This, as lawmakers cut the Department of Education’s Race to the Top program by 21 percent.
Of course there are many other items in the bill that go beyond the scope of funding domestic priorities. And then there’s that pesky payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefit extension. All of it can be added into the mix and then taken out of the mix, depending on the cunning of each side’s negotiators.
It's a 1,200-page spending bill. Eat up.