Congressman Jeff Miller, Florida's District 1
Last week, the House and Senate both passed H.R. 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014. This Omnibus bill, which passed the House by a strong bipartisan vote of 359 – 67, funds our government for the remainder of fiscal year 2014, and it represents the fourth consecutive year that House Republicans have cut discretionary spending.
While I believe we must go much further to reduce spending and balance our budget, the passage of H.R. 3547 by such a wide margin demonstrates that Republicans have begun to change the tax-and-spend culture that was pervasive in Washington for far too long. Overall, the Consolidated Appropriations Act cuts spending by $21.4 billion, while also buying back one year of harmful defense sequestration cuts, eliminating any need to furlough civilian employees in fiscal year 2014, increasing Congressional oversight of the Executive Branch, and reducing the excessive regulatory burdens that are hampering economic growth.
H.R. 3547 includes a number of policies aimed at strengthening our national security. The bill forbids the transfer or release Guantanamo Bay prisoners into the U.S. and prohibits construction or acquisition of facilities in the U.S. to detain prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. The bill also prioritizes essential readiness programs, including preparing our troops for combat and peacetime missions, training, and base operations, and fully funds the one percent pay increase for military and civilians. H.R. 3547 also includes funding for VA medical services, providing for approximately 6.5 million patients. It also includes funding to target the VA disability claims backlog, and it ensures that the VA and DoD are working together to develop an electronic health records system to seamlessly transfer medical information between the two agencies.
H.R. 3547 protects Second Amendment rights including prohibitions on various import/export criteria to firearms. The bill also includes safeguards to prevent another "Fast and Furious" type program and requires extensive reporting requirements for DHS's procurement and usage of ammunition. The Consolidated Appropriations Act places restrictions on the use of funds provided to the Department of State, including payment for contributions to international organizations.
The bill includes a number of policy provisions to provide regulatory relief for consumers and businesses. It exempts livestock producers from EPA greenhouse gas regulations, requires EPA to resolve differences with states and industry on regional haze issue, and enhances Congressional oversight of EPA’s review of mining permits. The bill also prohibits the Administration from using funds to carry out their ban on incandescent light bulbs or change the definition of fill material.
H.R. 3547 includes policies that will help unleash our domestic energy resources by rejecting new fees on onshore oil and gas producers, rejecting increased review periods for leases in the outer continental shelf, and approving higher rates of pay for oil and gas engineers and technicians. This will be instrumental in encouraging hiring and speeding up the lease review process.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act also seeks to curb some of the recent abuses by the IRS through provisions that prohibit funds from being used to target groups or individuals based on ideological beliefs or for exercising their First Amendment rights, and requiring extensive reporting on IRS bonuses, spending, and training. The bill also prohibits funding from going to ACORN or any of its affiliates.
All existing pro-life policy riders are retained in H.R. 3547, and it provides no new funding for Obamacare. The bill also begins to slice into existing Obamacare funding by reducing the Prevention and Public Health Fund--which the Administration has used as a veritable slush fund—by $1 billion. The bill also contains restrictions on using federal funding to lobby for Obamacare, and cuts an additional $10 million from the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) to prevent Washington bureaucrats from making health care decisions that should be between a patient and their doctor.
Passage of H.R. 3547 allows Congress to begin focusing on spending bills for fiscal year 2015 under regular order, as intended by our Founding Fathers. By ending the process of continual short-term continuing resolutions, Congress can provide the strict oversight and scrutiny that is needed to further reduce spending, promote fiscal responsibility, and work to help create a pro-growth environment where our Nation’s businesses can grow and create jobs.