CHN: House Begins Work on FY23 Spending Bills; Senate Work Pending

With less than three months to go until the Oct. 1 start of Fiscal Year 2023, work on the 12 required appropriations bills covering all government agencies has begun in the House and may soon begin in the Senate.

The House Appropriations Committee began marking up and passing its version of the FY23 spending bills in June, and last week completed passing all 12 bills through the committee. In early June, the House adopted a “deeming resolution,” an informal agreement to set the FY23 top-line limit on discretionary spending; this allows appropriators to move forward with drafting spending bills absent a more-formal budget resolution in place. The deeming resolution set the discretionary (annually appropriated) spending cap at roughly $1.6 trillion, matching President Biden’s budget request. The House Appropriations Committee then adopted allocations (known as the 302(b) allocations) for the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees, in line with the $1.6 trillion ceiling; these allocations are $132 billion above the fiscal 2022 enacted level, a 9 percent increase. The House could have floor votes on some of their bills in July.

While the top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee had hoped to reach an agreement on topline spending numbers, that agreement has been elusive. According to CQ, Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Republicans will not negotiate on a spending deal until after the midterm elections, and Punchbowl News says Republicans won’t negotiate a spending bill while Democrats continue to push for a reconciliation package (see related article in this Human Needs Report for more on this). Sen. Leahy previously said he will give allocations to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee chairs and tell them to mark up their bills after the July Fourth recess. However, Sen. Leahy underwent unplanned surgery for a broken hip on June 30 and his return date to the Senate is unclear; it is unknown if this will change the appropriations schedule in the Senate.

Because appropriations bills need 60 votes – and therefore some Republican support – to pass in the Senate, the bills that pass House Appropriations Committee (and that use President Biden’s topline spending numbers) will likely be higher than the final numbers enacted by Congress.

It is expected that Congress will pass a temporary stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, to fund government operations from Oct. 1 until after the November elections. At that time, it is possible Congress could 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. (An omnibus spending bill is different from a continuing resolution because it sets new spending levels for all appropriations, while a continuing resolution provides flat funding at the previous year’s levels with very few exceptions.)

While Republicans last year pushed for “parity,” or equal increases for both defense and nondefense programs, many are this year pushing for a higher increase in defense spending than for nondefense (domestic and international) spending. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees both voted in June – with both Democratic and Republican support – to add $37 billion and $44 billion respectively to President Joe Biden’s budget request for defense spending. Following the Senate Committee vote, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said, “The Senate Armed Services Committee’s choice to defy both the president and public opinion and flood the Pentagon with more money is outrageous. Time and again, Congress funnels billions in additional funds to costly weapons programs, war, and defense contractors, while claiming that human needs would ‘cost too much.’ … Lawmakers should reject this and champion human-centered spending instead.”

Advocates continue to urge Congress to increase funding for critical human needs programs in FY23 appropriations. A recent CHN analysis found that, out of 186 human needs programs tracked, 118 (nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent) saw cuts from FY 2010 through FY 2022, adjusted for inflation. Nearly one-third (58 programs; 31 percent) lost 20 percent or more over this period. For more information on President Biden’s FY23 budget request, see the April 5 Human Needs Report.

CHN is also urging Congress to include separate broad appropriations categories for defense, veterans’ medical care, and nondefense discretionary programs (also known as NDD). Veterans’ medical care is projected by the Biden Administration to grow by 22 percent from FY 2022 to FY 2023. Continuing to include veterans’ medical care within NDD subjects it to competition with other vital NDD programs, while its higher rate of growth will swallow up a great proportion of Congress’ agreed-upon funding level.

Relatedly, Department of Health and Human Services officials have for months now been seeking more than $20 billion in emergency aid for the ongoing COVID-19 response needs, including vaccines, treatments, and testing. Many Republicans object to the funding, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and a bipartisan group of conservative senators have held up COVID funding by demanding that a vote on additional funding be accompanied by an amendment to keep in place an anti-immigrant policy from the Trump Administration known as Title 42. Title 42 was invoked to block immigrants from entering the U.S. from countries where COVID-19 is present, including refugees and asylum seekers, and has resulted in more than 1.7 million immigrants being blocked or expelled from the U.S. Because of this, there is no expectation that a COVID supplemental funding package will move through Congress soon. A federal judge has placed a temporary hold on the Biden Administration’s plan to end this misuse of Title 42.