CHN: One More Stopgap Spending Measure Keeps the Government Open While Work on an FY22 Spending Package Continues
Nearly five months into Fiscal Year 2022, and with only one day to spare until government funding ran out, the Senate passed (65-27) another stopgap spending measure on Feb. 17 and it was signed into law by President Biden on February 18. The bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, will fund government operations through March 11. Several amendments insisted upon by Senate Republicans, including one barring federal funding from being used to enforce federal vaccine mandates, failed without Democratic support. The House previously passed the bill (272-162) on Feb. 8.
Congressional leaders announced earlier in February that a topline framework deal had been reached which will likely allow 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, by March 11. Details of the deal, including topline funding levels for defense and nondefense programs, subcommittee allocations (known as the 302(b) allocations), and any agreements on policy changes (known as riders), have not yet been made public. Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said on Feb. 17 that the deal would contain “the biggest increase in nondefense programs in four years,” but he did not give specifics on dollar or percent increases.
Senate Republicans are pushing for “parity,” or equal increases for both defense and nondefense programs. Appropriations bills need 60 votes – and therefore some Republican support – to pass in the Senate.
While it is not yet known if parity is part of the negotiated deal in the Senate, reports are that increases in defense spending will exceed the 5 percent boost over the prior year that was included in the national defense authorization law enacted in December. Earlier versions of the FY22 spending bills released by Senate Democrats would increase spending on nondefense (domestic and international) discretionary programs, also known as NDD, by roughly 13 percent over FY21 levels, while funding for defense programs would increase by about 5 percent. The House Democrats’ bills would increase NDD spending by about 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. 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.
Advocates, including more than 350 state, local, and national organizations, are urging Congress to quickly pass an omnibus spending package to increase funding for human needs programs. Under continuing resolutions, which have funded FY22 operations to date, most government agencies and programs see flat funding levels from FY21 spending bills, which were enacted under President Trump. A new CHN analysis found that, out of 192 human needs programs tracked, two-thirds (126) had less funding in FY 2021 than in FY 2010, taking inflation into account. Nearly one-third (60) had shrunk by more than 20 percent.
Relatedly, Department of Health and Human Services officials are reportedly seeking $30 billion in emergency aid for the ongoing COVID-19 response needs, including vaccines, treatments, and testing. While supplemental funding like this could be added to the FY22 omnibus spending package, it could also move as a stand-alone bill or attached to another bill. Many Republicans object to the funding, which would complicate omnibus negotiations even further if Democrats tried to attach it to the omnibus.
Looking ahead, President Biden is expected to release his FY23 budget request in early March, after he delivers the State of the Union on March 1. The statutory deadline for a president to release his or her budget is the first Monday in February, but there is no penalty for not meeting this deadline, and it has been frequently missed by presidents of both parties.