Senate Democrats craft funding plan with more agency flexibility

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2013 - Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski briefed Senate Democrats yesterday on a new version of a continuing resolution that locks in cuts required under the sequester signed by President Obama last week, but gives agencies more flexibility to transfer funding.

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She plans to introduce the measure on Monday with votes scheduled as soon as Wednesday. Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, NASA and the National Science Foundation should benefit from the increased flexibility to move money between accounts.

The House approved legislation Wednesday, on a 267-151 vote, which would continue funding for federal agencies, including the Agriculture Department, through FY 2013. The move would avert a government shutdown on March 27, when the current continuing resolution expires, and includes flexibility for the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs to decide how to apply its sequestration cuts.

The Senate plans to build on legislation passed by the House, while maintaining the same overall funding levels of $982 billion. Mikulski said the Senate measure would reflect new spending priorities in a few other areas-agriculture, commerce, justice and science, as well as homeland security. Plus, the Senate would embrace a new mechanism to give agency heads the ability to transfer - with congressional approval - money between programs. That would give cabinet members the authority to prioritize funding decisions, rather than require them to take an equal percentage cut in every program affected by the sequester.




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