WASHINGTON — Shippers could see faster cargo clearance at U.S. ports of entry and enjoy better access to the nation’s seaports after Congress passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus bill this week.
The Senate passed the bill 72-26 on Thursday and sent it to President Obama for signing. The House passed the bill 359-67 the day before.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s fiscal 2014 budget will increase by $110.6 million to $10.6 billion from fiscal 2013 levels. The increased funding will allow the agency hire an additional 2,000 officers to man the nation’s busiest ports of entry. The targeted force of 23,775 CBP officers will be the largest in history for Customs. The busy border crossing between San Diego, Calif., and Tijuana, Mexico, will get $128 million for modernization if the spending deal is passed.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ fiscal 2014 budget will expand by $487 million, or 10 percent, to $5.5 billion from fiscal 2013 levels. This will allow the Corps to spend $2.3 billion on navigation projects and studies, and receive more than $1 billion through the Harbor Maintenance Tax for maintenance dredging and jetty upkeep.
The bill will allocate $81.5 million in undesignated funding for inland navigation projects and also includes an authorization for up to four new starts, including up to two new inland navigation projects. The corps would have 45 days after enactment to select projects for these additional funds, and the new starts. Moreover, the corps must also develop a project rating system and consider giving priority to projects benefiting the national economy or enhancing national, regional or local economic development.
Nearly $41 billion in highway construction spending will be provided through the omnibus bill, a $557 million increase from fiscal 2013 levels. The level highway funding in fiscal 2014 matches what was authorized through the $109 billion highway bill known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21.
The passage of the bill is the latest sign that Democrats and Republicans can get beyond partisan fights to take on some of the nation's budget challenges.
This story was updated to reflect the passage of the bill.