Senate Democrats Unveil 2022 Spending Bills With Big Boosts for Agencies, Without GOP Support
The two parties remain firmly divided on appropriations levels ahead of a Dec. 3 shutdown deadline.
Senate Democrats attempted to move the ball forward on fiscal 2022 spending bills that Congress must pass by Dec. 3, but the effort was met with immediate pushback by Republicans who accused Democrats of avoiding necessary bipartisan negotiation.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced the nine remaining funding bills on Monday, adding to the three his panel previously considered. Taken together, the 12 spending measures—which Congress must pass annually to keep federal offices open—would give non-defense agencies a 13% boost, nearly matching the 16% called for in President Biden’s budget request. Defense spending would increase by 5%.
Leahy quickly conceded the bills were not likely to be signed into law as is, given that appropriations measures will require at least 10 Republican votes. The chairman said that unveiling the bills would “show the American people what we are for.”
“I believe we have struck the right balance with the bills we have produced and made public this week,” Leahy said. “But as with everything in Congress, we rarely end where we begin.”
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said the Democratic bills “threaten the [fiscal 2022] appropriations process.” Shelby and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have repeatedly called for defense and non-defense spending to be increased equally and argued lawmakers must agree to top-line funding levels for each of the 12 spending bills before the process can move forward.
“Chairman Leahy’s decision to unilaterally unveil partisan spending bills is a significant step in the wrong direction,” Shelby said.
Agencies are currently operating under a stopgap continuing resolution, which will fund agencies through Dec. 3. Shelby said success before that date “rests on trust and bipartisan cooperation.”
“Regrettably, we’re a long way from that now,” Shelby said. “If Democrats want full-year appropriations bills, they must abandon their go-it-alone strategy and come to the table to negotiate.”
The House has passed nine of 12 spending bills for fiscal 2022, but it did so along party lines. Those measures would have to be negotiated with Senate Republicans before they can go to the White House for Biden’s signature. The U.S. Treasury is also set to hit the debt ceiling in early December, though the exact date of a potential default is still unclear.
In addition to the general spending levels, Republicans took issue specifically with provisions to allow federal employee health care to contribute toward abortion services, and to fund a Civilian Climate Corps and enable federal agencies to hire individuals with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. They rejected efforts to reallocate spending away from a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and general cuts to Homeland Security Department border security spending, significantly boost funding for the Internal Revenue Service and provide money for the federal government to electrify its vehicle fleet.
Leahy heralded that his bills would increase funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 24%, boost the Environmental Protection Agency’s air and climate programs by 46% and for the first time provide advance year appropriations for the Indian Health Service. He rejected that the measures only reflected Democratic priorities.
“While some on the other side of the aisle may characterize these bills as partisan, that is simply not true,” Leahy said. “In a spirit of comity, and in bipartisanship which is the tradition of the committee, we worked hard to accommodate the funding priorities of all members, both Democrats and Republicans, and the posted bills reflect that effort.”
Still, Leahy conceded that he must go back to the table and “make progress” on top-line funding levels that are “bipartisan and bicameral.”
“Failure to do that will lead to a long-term continuing resolution, which locks in outdated spending priorities that will not meet the challenges of today and will not serve the American people,” Leahy said.
Shelby encouraged his colleagues to act quickly. “The clock is ticking,” he said.