PERRY/Bringing home the bacon
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 12:00 AM
Republicans and Democrats alike praised the recent $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed last week; Republicans and Democrats alike also criticized it. All of Mississippi's federal delegation voted for the measure that encompassed 12 appropriation bills. That includes the sole Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson and all Republicans: Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and Reps. Alan Nunnelee, Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo.
A release from Palazzo described the bill as cutting "federal spending for the fourth year in a row, for a record total of $165 billion since 2010...the legislation includes delays for some homeowners facing flood insurance rate increases due to changing FEMA flood map changes, protects defense budgets from further damaging defense cuts, and addresses cost-of-living adjustments for medically-retired military retirees and survivors."
The flood insurance provision is particularly important to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and incorporated a measure cosponsored by Palazzo that "halts all FEMA work, through the end of this fiscal year, to implement rate increases on some of those homeowners affected by flood map changes. This provision sets the stage for broader reforms that we are working toward later this month or the next," Palazzo said.
On the military provisions, Palazzo said, "We maintain our commitments to our men and women in uniform by restoring damaging defense cuts. We address cost-of-living adjustments for 63,000 medically retired military personnel and survivors receiving benefits. I plan to continue working to address cost-of-living increases for all of our military retirees. We provide for a well-deserved 1% increase in troop pay. We also provide funding for homeland security priorities, such as the 7th and 8th National Security Cutters for the Coast Guard."
In addition to the $629 million for the Coast Guard's National Security Cutters built at Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula, the legislation provides for the procurement of 20 light utility helicopters manufactured by American Eurocopter in Columbus and two Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured by Northrop Grumman in Moss Point; as well as continued funding for amphibious ships and destroyers built in Pascagoula. The Space Launch System program tested at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County received $1.6 billion. The bill included funding for the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport.
In his release, Wicker said, "Although the bill is not perfect, I am hopeful this bipartisan agreement represents an end to the Senate's abdication of its shared constitutional duty to exercise the 'power of the purse.' I am also pleased that the bill replaces some of the harsh sequestration spending cuts to our defense and national security agencies, as well as prioritizes programs that strengthen U.S. competitiveness and innovation."
Wicker noted the bill prohibits additional funds for Obamacare through the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and eliminates $10 million from the Independent Payment Advisory Board which has been described as an Obamacare "slush fund."
Wicker pointed to benefits to Mississippi including funding for flood-control projects, operation and maintenance dredging for Mississippi ports, clean drinking water projects, $75 million for fishery disasters, and funding for the COASTAL Act and the Delta Regional Commission. He said it limits "executive overreach" by preventing funding of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty and the EPA's climate regulatory programs, as well as cutting $4 million from the National Labor Relations Board.
Other Mississippi benefits include funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission for economic development projects in Northeast Mississippi, transportation grants and funding for the Northern Gulf Institute at Mississippi State University.
On immigration, funding was increased for E-Verify, $3.7 billion was appropriated for border patrol agents and training, the ICE Public Advocate office was defunded and money was provided for 34,000 ICE detention beds.
The bill restricts the Department of Justice from engaging in gun programs like "Operation Fast and Furious." It bans foreign aid to Libya as a result of the Benghazi attack on the U.S. consulate. The bill even bans enforcement of federal rules mandating the end of incandescent light bulbs.
In a release from Nunnelee, he noted abortion opponents will be pleased that "all existing pro-life policies and funding provisions" were maintained, public funding for abortions in the District of Columbia was banned and Title X family planning funding was reduced by $10 million.
A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Nunnelee said, "I came to Washington to change the conversation from 'how much can we spend and expand government' to 'how much can we cut and reduce government.' While we did not get everything that we wanted, the omnibus continues the momentum of changing the culture in Washington...This is certainly not a final victory, but it is a common sense, clear path forward which is the key to getting our economy and job creation moving in a positive sustainable direction... Passing appropriations bills is the best, most likely way to get conservative reforms into law."
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.