CHN: Advocates Push for FY22 Spending Bills Over Long Stopgap Measures

Nearly two months into the fiscal year, and with less than two weeks to go until government funding runs out, Congress is still nowhere close to passing Fiscal Year 2022 spending bills. The current stopgap spending measure, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, expires Dec. 3. It was enacted on Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1, the start of the government’s fiscal year.

Advocates had hoped Congress would use the past two months to pass all twelve of the required FY22 spending bills. That didn’t happen, however, and now Congress will need to pass another CR before Dec. 3. The length of the next CR remains unclear. There is some talk that a two-week measure could last until Dec. 17 in an effort to wrap up FY22 appropriations this calendar year, or at least get closer to doing so. Another option is a CR that would last through February or early March 2022.

House and Senate Democrats have released different versions of the spending bills. The House has passed 9 of its 12 subcommittee bills; the Senate has not taken any of its appropriations bills to the floor yet. However, appropriations bills need 60 votes – and therefore some Republican support – to pass in the Senate. As Republicans oppose the funding levels used in the House and Senate bills, Democratic and Republican leaders will need to agree on topline funding levels, subcommittee allocations (known as the 302(b) allocations), and any policy changes (known as riders) to get appropriations bills passed. The Senate bills may serve as a starting point for these negotiations, as those include more defense spending, one or the top priorities for many Republicans.

The Senate Democrats’ version of the FY22 spending bills would increase spending on non-defense (domestic and international) discretionary programs, also known as NDD, by roughly 13 percent over FY21 levels. Most education and housing programs fall into this category, plus many social service, public health, veterans’ services, criminal justice, homeland security, environmental and community development programs. Funding for defense programs would increase by roughly 5 percent over FY21 in the Senate FY22 spending bills. The House Democrats’ bills would increase NDD spending by roughly 16 percent and increase defense spending by roughly 2 percent over FY21. The increases in the House bills closely align with the increases called for in President Biden’s FY22 budget request. Republicans have called for “parity,” or equal increases for both defense and nondefense. The FY22 spending bills are the first ones in a decade that are not limited by the low spending caps for discretionary (annually-appropriated) programs previously required by the Budget Control Act. For more details of the House and Senate Democrats’ proposed spending bills, see the Oct. 26 Human Needs Report.

Advocates are urging Congress to pass an “omnibus” spending package, which combines the 12 required appropriations bills covering all government agencies for the rest of the fiscal year in one package, rather than passing a long-term CR. Under a CR, most government agencies and programs see flat funding levels from FY21 spending bills, which were enacted under President Trump. As CHN noted in a letter to House Appropriations Committee members, flat funding from a prolonged CR would fail people with low incomes by not providing needed increases in human needs programs.