Patty in the News

WASHINGTON — The $1.1 trillion spending bill filed by House appropriators late Tuesday likely will avert a federal government shutdown after Thursday. But lawmakers (or, more accurately, their staff) were combing through the omnibus legislation Wednesday morning to tally how much money will flow to their states.

Sean Coit, spokesman for Sen. Patty Murray, said the spending bills include “big wins” for several of Murray’s priorities. They include enhancing safety of oil trains that are increasingly traversing through Washington, averting cuts proposed by President Obama for clean up of the Hanford nuclear reservation and a final $89.7 million in federal funding for the University Link light rail extension in Seattle.

Federal job-training grants — another of Murray’s priorities — will get a slight increase to $2.6 billion, $36 million more than in fiscal 2015. But appropriators knocked $100 million off the $600 million allocated for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants that pay for highway and public transit programs.

Murray chairs the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. As chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, Murray in 2013 forged a deal with her House counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to lift mandatory budget cuts called sequestration for two years.

That agreement fixed the total federal discretionary spending at $1.1 trillion for fiscal 2014 and 2015. So the House spending bills released Tuesday mostly shuffled same pot of money among 12 appropriations bills.

Indeed, the most controversial parts of the so-called cromnibus bill were the host of ideological policy riders inserted by Republicans and, to lesser extent, Democrats. Among other things, Congress would nullify last month’s vote by District of Columbia to legalize recreational marijuana, prevent the Air Force from retiring the A-10 attack planes to save money and raise the cap individual donors can give to national political party committees ten-fold to $324,000 each year.

The $1.1 trillion in total spending accounts for about 30 percent of the federal budget that is discretionary. The remainder goes to mandatory programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps, plus interest on the national debt. The fiscal 2015 spending includes $73.3 billion in war funding and for disaster relief. An additional $5.5 billion is earmarked for emergency Ebola response.

The House is expected to vote on the measure Thursday, and the Senate by week’s end. The current government funding expires Thursday, so Congress likely will have to pass a short-term bill to bridge the gap.

Rep. Jim McDermott, a Seattle Democrat, already has announced he would vote against the spending bill. McDermott cited measures to loosen regulations on Wall Street as well as money allocated to fight the radical group ISIS, which calls itself Islamic State.

- Seattle Times