The normally polarized U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bipartisan two-year budget deal by a vote of 392-94 that would stave off another potential government shutdown and replace a portion of the second round of automatic sequester budget cuts scheduled to kick in next month with more targeted cuts and spending increases.
Two of the deficit-reduction measures in the budget act would increase
passenger security fees assessed by the Transportation Security
Administration and extend the authority of Customs and Border Protection
to collect customs users fees through fiscal year 2023. There are nine
different conveyance and passenger user fees and a merchandise
processing fee collected by Customs.
Airline travelers pay a one-way trip fee of $2.50 per boarding up to a
maximum of $5 if there are connecting flights. The legislation
simplifies the fee structure to a flat $5.60 fee per one-way trip, which
is 60 cents above the current maximum fee. The fee structure would
allow the TSA to offset about 43 percent of its aviation security costs.
As of Oct. 1, 2014, carriers will no longer have to pay the Aviation
Security Infrastructure Fee.
Another provision would repeal the requirement that the Maritime
Administration reimburse federal agencies for the extra cost associated
with shipping food aid on U.S.-flag vessels.
Under current law, U.S. agencies are required to transport 50 percent
of equipment, materials and commodities shipped to foreign countries on
U.S.-registered vessels, which is usually more expensive than
foreign-flag shipping. Food aid sent by the Department of Agriculture
and U.S. Agency for International Development is not exempt from this
requirement, which decreases the available amount of money for actual
aid. When shipping expenses for food aid exceed 20 percent of total
program cost in a given fiscal year, MarAd must reimburse USDA and USAID
by the dollar amount above 20 percent. Section 602 of the budget act
would eliminate the reimbursements from MarAd.
The deal, which sets discretionary spending for fiscal year 2014 at just above $1 trillion, was hammered out by House and Senate negotiators led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., earlier this week. The Senate is expected to approve the measure next week.
Without the agreement, discretionary spending would have been cut by more than $33 billion. The deal includes $23 billion in net deficit spending over two years and does not extend the time period for people to receive unemployment benefits. It provides $63 billion in relief from the sequester over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs.
The current spending plan agreed to in October expires in mid-January.
Leaders on both sides of the aisles expressed lukewarm feelings about the compromise, but indicated it was necessary to allow their parties to move onto other issues they want to focus on.