Obama to sign bill to avoid shutdown, FSIS inspector furloughs

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 21, 2013 - The House approved today, with a 318-109 vote, legislation (H.R. 933) that would avoid a shutdown of the federal government and stave off tentative furloughs of Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) meat inspectors.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days. House action came one day after the Senate approved the continuing resolution with a 73-26.

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The bill received the support of 203 House Republicans and 115 House Democrats. Opposing the legislation were 82 Democrats and 27 Republicans.

The bill would extend funding to all federal departments through fiscal year 2013, avoiding a March 27 government shutdown.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said the legislation “helps maintain our national security and takes a potential shutdown off the table.”

“I'm proud that we were able to reach across the aisle - and across Capitol Hill - to produce a meaningful, bipartisan bill that funds the government responsibly,” Rogers said. “With the approval of this measure, we have laid the foundation for thoughtful and responsible consideration of appropriations bills, and can now focus our attention on next year's work. I encourage the president to sign this bill into law without delay.”

The underlying bill would provide $20.5 billion in FY 2013 for agriculture, rural development, the FDA and related agencies. Those agencies received nearly $19.6 billion in the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30.

The bill includes a provision that aims to provide the administration with flexibility to ensure that “essential” federal employees, such as meat inspectors, are not subjected to the looming sequestration-related furloughs.

The legislation would grant the USDA flexibility to transfer $55 million in existing agriculture funds to FSIS in order to ensure food inspectors are not furloughed.

Under sequestration, the USDA and other federal departments are required to make funding cuts of between 5 percent and 8 percent in a “line-item” matter with no ability to shift cuts between programs.

The bill would move one-time funding for school equipment grants and defer maintenance on buildings and facilities at USDA.

It has been estimated that the USDA projected food inspector furloughs would have closed nearly 6,300 food inspection facilities across the nation. As a result, over 500,000 industry workers would have lost nearly $400 million in wages.

In addition, the bill would fund implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act with an additional $12.8 million. The bill also aims to improve access to clean water in rural communities with an additional $250 million.

 

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