President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion federal spending measure into law Tuesday, officially ending any threat of a government shutdown over the holidays.
The bill appropriates $554 billion for the Defense Department for fiscal 2015 and gives the Veterans Affairs Department $160 billion. Both departments had been operating off temporary, lower-spending resolutions since October.
It also fully funds operations for every other federal department for the rest of fiscal 2015 except the Homeland Security Department. That agency received funding only through February, after conservatives in Congress objected to Obama's recent executive action delaying deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.
The result is that the new Republican-controlled Congress will argue over that department's long-term fate when the new congressional session starts next month, but other unrelated government programs and benefits won't be held hostage by that fight.
The agreement barely passed the House earlier this month and needed a marathon Senate session this weekend to finally pass the lame-duck Congress.
Under the measure, the Pentagon would receive $490 billion in base defense spending and another $64 billion in overseas contingency funds.
It includes a 1 percent pay raise for troops in 2015 — lower than the 1.8 percent anticipated rate of average private-sector wage growth — and a 1 percent reduction in housing stipends inflation growth next year. Both moves were requested by Pentagon leaders to help slow the growth of personnel spending accounts.
Civilian employees of DoD also will see a 1 percent pay raise next year.
About $5 billion will be set aside for operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $1.6 billion for training Iraqi and Kurdish security forces. Training and sustainment of Afghanistan security forces will total $4.1 billion.
The VA funding is about $300 million less than the White House requested in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal, but still represents a 3 percent increase in discretionary funding for that department. That continues a decade-long trend of increases for veterans services and benefits since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The spending agreement also mandates year-ahead funding for all veterans benefit accounts starting with fiscal 2017, a provision that veterans advocates been pushing for since the 2013 government shutdown.
VA medical care accounts already are funded a full year in advance to ensure that budget delays don't disrupt health care programs and services for veterans. But VA benefits aren't included in that provision. With the change, any future shutdowns won't threaten those benefits.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.