Senate Reaches Deal on Appropriations Bills

Appropriations bills mark changed attitude in Washington.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., flanked by Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., left, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks on Aug. 1, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
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Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced late Monday that Republicans and Democrats had struck a $1.1 trillion deal on how to fund the government.

The "omnibus" bill, which includes 12 funding measures rolled into a single bill, was no small feat to tackle in a bitterly divided Congress. Unlike the budget, which set spending levels until October 2014, the appropriations bill directs precisely how the money is spent.

"It provides funding for every aspect of the federal government, from our national defense, to our transportation systems, to the education of our kids," said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who had worked closely as the Republican's lead negotiator on the bicameral bill. "The bill reflects careful decisions to realign the nation's funding priorities and target precious tax dollars to important programs where they are needed the most. At the same time, the legislation will continue the downward trend in federal spending to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path."

[READ: Murray, Ryan Negotiate Bipartisan Budget Deal]

If Republicans in the House of Representatives and Democrats in the Senate can pass the legislation this month, it would be the first time Congress operates under new appropriations bills since 2011. Republicans in the House are slated to vote on the measure, which is thousands of pages long, by Wednesday, less than two days after the bill was announced. The Senate will vote on a procedural hurdle Friday and move to final passage on Saturday.

In addition to providing funding for defense and other government programs, appropriations bills have a reputation of being grab bags full of sweeteners to get both Republican and Democratic support. In the most current version of the legislation, lawmakers included a "fix" to restore the full cost-of-living benefits to disabled veterans, which had been trimmed in the budget bill that passed back in December. Republicans also touted a $10 million cut to federal family planning programs as a major victory for fiscal conservatives. Democrats, meanwhile, hailed the level of funding for the Affordable Care Act as a major achievement.

The bill is not solely a spending bill, however. Several provisions made their way into the legislation including one that bans the U.S. government from transferring prisoners currently held at Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. and another measure that limits federal agency employees' travel and awards. The bill also gives President Barack Obama the power to send more than $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, despite the fact the country is still reeling from a military coup.

[DEBATE: Should Balancing the Federal Budget Be a Top Policy Priority?]

"It is truly a bipartisan agreement that a significant number of members worked on day and night all through the holidays," Mikulski said in a release. "This agreement shows the American people that we can compromise."

While the massive bill is being hailed a victory for a partisan and gridlocked 113th Congress, decades ago it would have been dubbed a flub. President Ronald Reagan famously threatened to veto so-called omnibus bills and encouraged Congress to vote on 12 separate funding measures throughout the year to ensure members had the ability to hold votes and introduce amendments, something lawmakers today will inevitably run out of time to do.

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