Republicans unveil government funding measure

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans controlling

the House moved Monday to give the Pentagon more money for military

readiness while

easing the pain felt by such agencies as the FBI and the Border

Patrol from the across-the-board spending cuts that are just

starting to take effect.

The effort is part of a huge spending measure that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September — and head off

a potential government shutdown later this month.

The measure would leave in place automatic

cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon

ordered

by President Barack Obama Friday night after months of battling

with Republicans over the budget. But the House Republicans'

legislation would award the Defense and Veterans Affairs

departments their detailed 2013 budgets while other agencies would

be frozen at 2012 levels — and then bear the across-the-board

cuts.

The impact of the new cuts was proving slow to reach the broader public as Obama convened the first Cabinet meeting of his

second term to discuss next steps.

The Pentagon did say it would furlough

thousands of military school teachers around the world and close

commissaries an extra

day each week. And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

said the spending cuts were causing delays in customs lines

at airports including Los Angeles International and O'Hare

International in Chicago.

Obama said he was continuing to seek out Republican partners to reach a deal to ease or head off the cuts, but there was no

sign that a breakthrough was in the works to reverse them.

The new GOP funding measure is set to advance through the House on Wednesday. It's aimed at preventing a government shutdown

when a six-month spending bill passed last September runs out March 27.

The latest measure would provide an increase

for military operations and maintenance efforts as well as veterans'

health programs

but would put most the rest of the government on budget autopilot.

After accounting for the across-the-board

cuts, domestic agencies would face reductions exceeding 5 percent when

compared

with last year. But Republicans would carve out a host of

exemptions seeking to protect certain functions, including federal

prisons and fire-fighting efforts in the West, and to provide new

funding for embassy security and modernizing the U.S. nuclear

arsenal. The FBI and the Border Patrol would be able to maintain

current staffing levels and would not have to furlough employees.

The legislation would provide about $2

billion more than the current level to increase security at U.S.

embassies and diplomatic

missions worldwide. Last September, a terrorist attack on the U.S.

diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, killed Ambassador

Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

A project to repair the Capitol Dome in Washington could stay on track, and NASA would be protected from the harshest effects

of the automatic cuts, known in Washington as a sequester.

The across-the-board cuts would carve $85

billion in spending from the government's $3.6 trillion budget for this

year, concentrating

the cuts in the approximately $1 trillion allocated to the

day-to-day agency operating budgets set by Congress each year.

Those so-called discretionary accounts received big boosts in the

first two years of Obama's presidency when Democrats controlled

Congress but have borne the brunt of the cuts approved as Obama

and Republicans have grappled over the budget.

Both Democrats and Republicans for months

have warned the cuts are draconian and would slow the growth of the

economy and

cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. The nonpartisan Congressional

Budget Office, for instance, says they would slow the economy

by 0.6 percent and cost about 750,000 jobs.

Obama presided Monday over the first meeting of his new-look Cabinet in a sobering climate of fiscal belt-tightening, urging

humane management of spending cuts for communities and families that are "going to be hurting."

"We can manage through it," the president

told reporters. Obama and members of his Cabinet had been warning for

weeks that

the cuts would be painful, but the fact is they will be slow to

take effect, with the first furloughs of government workers

not due until next month. Cuts to many programs may go unnoticed

entirely.

The White House budget office's 83-page

sequestration order was released Friday evening, detailing the cuts to

more than 1,000

separate government accounts, big and small. Cuts of 7.8 percent

that are set to strike defense accounts include $5.2 billion

for construction at Army bases. Other accounts are far smaller,

like $32 million to operate and maintain the St. Lawrence

Seaway.

Each agency is supposed to apportion the

cuts equally to each "program, project and activity" within the broader

accounts,

which gives agency heads some flexibility since it's up to them to

define what that means. And it's not clear what recourse

others would have if they disagreed with an agency's choices.

"That leaves it pretty much to the administrators in the agency in which that account falls to determine how he's planning

on applying it," said G. William Hoagland, a budget expert with the Bipartisan Policy Center. "I don't know that anybody's

going to be held accountable if some administrator defines a project the way he wants to define it."