House passes 2013 funding for Commerce, Justice

Thursday - 5/10/2012, 7:50pm EDT

The House approved the first spending bill for 2013, setting operating budgets for the Commerce and Justice Departments and for science-related agencies, such as NASA.

However, the White House has threatened to veto the legislation because it proposes deeper cuts than spending caps agreed to in last summer's Budget Control Act. A statement of administration policy said the House bill also "undermines" key investments in export promotion, community safety and space flight.

The House approved the $51.1 billion appropriations bill in a 247-162 vote. The funding level is $1.6 billion below last year's level and $731 million below the administration's official request.

Commerce Department

The spending bill includes a total of $7.7 billion for the Commerce Department, which represents an increase of $96 million above current levels but is $280 million below the administration's official budget request.

  • $2.9 billion for the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), an increase of $255 million above fiscal year 2012 levels.

  • $830 million for research and standards work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). However the House did not include new funding for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.

  • $5 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • $878.7 million for the Census Bureau — a $9.6 million cut compared to FY 2012 levels.

Justice Department

The bill provides $27.1 billion in total discretionary spending for the Justice Department, which is $11 million above FY 2012 levels but $44 million below the White House request.

  • $8.3 billion for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is $148 million above FY 2012 and $34 million above the President's request.

  • $2.4 billion for the Drug Enforcement Agency, which is $50 million above FY 2012 levels

Science agencies

The bill provides $24.9 billion for a number of science-related agencies, including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

  • $17.6 billion for NASA, which includes $37 billion for space exploration

  • $7.3 billion for the National Science Foundation

Cybersecurity provisions

The spending bill also contains new directives relating to agency cybersecurity practices. The bill directs the agencies funded by the appropriations bill to submit to the committee an annual report describing cyber attacks — both actual and attempted — against the agency, as well as the steps the agency took to respond to them.

The report also must include the agencies' policies for "ensuring safe use of computer and mobile devices by individual employees."

Amendments approved along partisan divide

The appropriations bill also included a number of amendments, approved in rapid succession in mostly party-line votes.

One would prevent the Justice Department from taking legal action against state laws requiring voter identification and another would stop the Census Bureau from conducting detailed, long-form surveys that many lawmakers find to be unnecessarily intrusive.

Republicans were successful earlier this week in blocking the Justice Department from participating in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of new tough state immigration laws, including those of Arizona and Alabama.

The measure is the first of 12 annual appropriations bills to hit the House floor as GOP leaders have front-loaded the process with measures that have won bipartisan backing in the Appropriations panel. It's unclear how much support the measures will get from the broader Democratic membership.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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