Congress finally passes $1.15 trillion omnibus spending bill
One more thing. Congress’ last task before they departed town for the holidays was passage of a $1.15 trillion omnibus spending bill.
The legislation includes $514 billion in basic defense spending plus $59 billion for overseas contingency operations, a $26 billion increase over the fiscal 2015 budget.
Included in the legislation is funding for a 1.3 percent pay raise for military personnel and civilian employees although general officers are left out of the 2016 increase.
Lawmakers added $300 million above the president’s request for Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), but agreed with the Defense Department’s plan to slow the growth of the program.
BAH will cover only 98 percent of housing costs next year with troops paying the remaining 2 percent.
The Defense Department has announced the average BAH increase will be 3.4 percent.
The bill also provides $281.2 million to maintain funding for commissaries, rejects consolidation of TRICARE, adds $25 million for continuation and expansion of the Special Victims’ Counsel Program to provide victims of sexual assault with legal assistance and support
It also adds $18 million for the Beyond Yellow Ribbon program, which supports members of the National Guard and Reserve and their families throughout their deployments, adds $34 million for financial literacy training, to help service members better plan for the future and to avoid scams that target military personnel, and, provides $32.6 billion for the defense health program.
Here is the breakout for the Army:
Army base budget funding: $124 billion ($126.5 billion requested)
Military personnel: $53.4 billion ($53.6 billion requested)
Operations and Maintenance: $42.1 billion ($44.9 billion requested)
Procurement: $16.4 billion ($16.1 billion requested)
RDT&E: $7.6 billion ($6.9 billion requested)
Military Construction and Family Housing: $1.5 billion
Veterans Affairs’ operations will get $163 billion which includes $71.4 billion in discretionary funding, an almost 10 percent jump from fiscal 2015.
Of that, lawmakers appropriated $7.5 billion for mental health care operations, $4.9 billion for medical costs of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, $4.7 billion for female-specific health care programs, $7.5 billion for institutional and other long-term support of aging veterans, $1.4 billion to support homeless veterans, $1.5 billion for new Hepatitis-C medications, and $700 million above the president’s request for VA’s disability claims backlog.
A statement released by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the House Appropriations Committee chairman, said, "The legislation today is a result of this extensive work and of Member involvement on behalf of their constituents around the country."
Adding, "While an end-of-the-year Omnibus is not the preferred way to do business – it is always better to complete individual bills in a timely fashion – this bill will allow Congress to fulfill its constitutional duty to responsibly fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown."
His Senate counterpart, Thad Cochran of Mississippi said, "This legislation is our best option to responsibly meet national security requirements, improve our country’s infrastructure and address other public needs."
He added, "We’ve worked on a bipartisan basis to produce a bill that will make important investments to aid our economy and promote more effective and efficient government."
Julie Cameron Rudowski