House Passes FY2013 CJS Bill, Replaces Sequester for DOD with Other Cuts

House Passes FY2013 CJS Bill, Replaces Sequester for DOD with Other Cuts

The House of Representatives passed the FY2013 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill that funds NASA and NOAA this afternoon as expected.   Separately, the House also passed legislation to replace deep budget cuts for the Department of Defense that will take effect on January 1, 2013 under the sequester provisions of last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA) with deep cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

The House has been debating the CJS bill, H.R. 5326, since Tuesday.   In the end, only one amendment was adopted that affects NASA — a $126 million cut to NASA’s Cross Agency Support budget.  The money instead was allocated to a Department of Justice community policing program.  The bill passed on a vote of 247-163.  President Obama earlier threatened to veto the bill.

The other bill passed today would cut $243 billion from food stamps and other mandatory spending programs over the next five years instead of making cuts to the defense budget as required by the BCA.   The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, H.R. 5652, passed 218-199 on a mostly party-line vote.  Only 16 Republicans opposed it, and no Democrats supported it according to The Hill newspaper.

The bill is not expected to pass the Senate. 

At a press conference today, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey defended the Obama Administration’s FY2013 budget request for DOD.  That request was crafted after they conducted a strategic assessment of DOD’s future needs.  Responding to the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) action on the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act yesterday, Panetta said that “[m]y concern is that if Congress now tries to reverse many of the tough decisions we reached by adding several billion dollars to the president’s budget request, then they risk not only potential gridlock [but]…they could force the kind of trade-offs that could jeopardize our national defense.”   He also insisted that “defense should not be exempt from doing its share to reduce the deficit.”

HASC completed full committee markup of the FY2013 authorization act yesterday, approving $554 billion for national defense plus $88.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.   The funding is $4 billion more than requested by the President.  HASC Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon said that it nonetheless is less than FY2012 and it “begins to restore sanity to the defense budget.”   He stated that military spending represents “only 20% of the federal budget” but “has absorbed 50% of deficit reductions to date.”   He hailed today’s passage of the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, criticizing Democrats for seeing the sequester as a balanced approach to deficit reduction and saying the bill “reforms the real drivers of our debt and honors the defenders of our freedom.”

Regarding space programs, HASC restored funding for two programs DOD wanted to cancel — Operationally Responsive Space and the Space Test Program — and sharply cut a Missile Defense Agency program called Precision Tracking Space Sensor.

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