Congress averts shutdown, passes pay freeze

By The Associated Press and Federal News Radio

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress passed a stopgap funding bill Tuesday to keep the federal government open through March 4, 2011.

The bill also makes President Obama’s two-year federal pay freeze a reality for feds.

More guidance on the implementation of the pay freeze should be forthcoming soon.

By The Associated Press and Federal News Radio

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress passed a stopgap funding bill Tuesday to keep the federal government open through March 4, 2011.

The bill also makes President Obama’s two-year federal pay freeze a reality for feds.

More guidance on the implementation of the pay freeze should be forthcoming soon.

Check out Federal News Radio’s Pay Freeze Q&A for more information. Read the exact wording of the pay freeze as it appears in the continuing resolution at the bottom of this story (Pages 1-2, SECTION 1, SUBSECTION 147).

The bill was passed by the House in the evening just hours after speeding through the Senate. President Obama later signed the bill to avoid a government shutdown.

The measure freezes agency budgets at 2010 levels for most programs.

However, funding for the CR will be $1.16 billion above the fiscal year 2010 spending levels, to pay for some programs that would “otherwise expire or be severely disrupted,” according to a release from the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

“That means any kind of planned increases in spending, such as the IRS’s systems modernization plans, are all on hold because there is no additional funding,” Erik Wasson, staff writer for The Hill, told Federal News Radio. “Overall, agencies are going to have to wait with bated breath until March to see what kind of reductions the Republicans are going to introduce.”

Some of the extended authorizations include:

New anomalies:

  • Adjusts the current rate of operations for the Veterans Benefits Administration to $2.1 billion, an increase of $460 million over the FY 2010 appropriation, to prevent layoffs of claims processors and to support efforts in reducing the processing times of disability claims.
  • Adjusts the amount available for operations of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to prevent layoffs.
  • Ensures that HHS obligates the same amount for LIHEAP during the CR as it obligated during the same period in FY 2010.
  • Ensures adequate funding to prevent significant scaling back of audits and investigations of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
  • Provides transfer authority for the Transportation Security Administration to sustain efforts to improve defenses against terrorist attacks.
  • Provides transfer authority to the Coast Guard to address operational challenges, such as military pay.

Anomalies continued from the previous CR:

  • Reduces the amount available for BRAC 2005 from over $7 billion in FY 2010 to a rate equal to $2.35 billion, the FY 2011 request.
  • Reduces the amount available for Census programs from over $7 billion in FY 2010 to a rate equal to $964 million annually, the same as the amount recommended for FY 2011.
  • Extends the application period for retroactive stop loss benefits throughout the duration of the continuing resolution.
  • Allows the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to maintain the level of Customs and Border Protection personnel in place in the final quarter of FY 2010.
  • Allows the Federal Air Marshals to maintain the existing FY 2010 4th quarter coverage level for international and domestic flights.
  • Extends the authority for the Department of Defense to execute the Commanders Emergency Response Program.
  • Extends for the duration of the CR the existing authority for the Department of Homeland Security to retain its authority to regulate chemical facilities that present high levels of risk.
  • Adjusts the current rate of operations for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons program to $7 billion, a $624 million increase over FY 2010 appropriation, in conjunction with the START Treaty.
  • Provides an additional $23 million to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (formerly the Minerals Management Service) for increased oil rig inspections in the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill would also create hardship at the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department, which will be denied funding increases until their budgets pass next year.

This year, Congress has failed to enact a single one of the 12 annual spending bills that fund the day-to-day operations of every federal agency.

The House cleared the bill for Obama on a 193-165 vote after a 79-16 vote in the Senate.

(Copyright 2010 The Associated Press and Federal News Radio. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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