Congressional Leaders Concede Another Stopgap Spending Bill 'Likely' as Negotiations Remain at Standstill
White House warns of drastic impacts to agencies from long-term autopilot funding.
Congressional leadership is warning members to expect another stopgap funding bill next month, as the path to setting full-year appropriations remains littered with obstacles.
The announcement from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came just days after the White House issued a warning about the perils of a potential continuing resolution that would keep agency funding frozen at fiscal 2021 levels through next September, saying such an outcome would negatively impact the COVID-19 pandemic response, national security and federal hiring. The current short-term funding measure is set to expire Dec. 3.
Schumer on Sunday called it “likely” another CR will be necessary, following weeks of stalled bipartisan negotiations. Democrats and Republicans have yet to agree on the top-line spending totals that would make up the defense and non-defense portions of the fiscal 2022 budget, stymying negotiators from finalizing the 12 individual appropriations bills Congress must pass each year.
“I am disappointed that we have not yet been able to reach a ‘topline’ agreement on funding levels for [fiscal] 2022 with our Republican colleagues,” Schumer said in a letter to colleagues. “But I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement soon so that the committees can finalize their bills and we can consider a [fiscal] 2022 omnibus bill later this year. However, it is likely that we will need to process a continuing resolution before December 3rd to give our appropriators more time to finish their work.”
On Friday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget issued a fact sheet outlining its perspective on why long-term CRs would damage the country. Freezing funding at current levels would take money away from vaccine and other COVID-19 related research and activities, limit new grants and prevent new Defense Department programs from starting up. Pay increases would have to come at the expense of other priorities, OMB said, and the Social Security Administration would institute a hiring freeze. It added that vacancies for food safety inspectors would go unfilled, NASA’s Mars program would be shortchanged and efforts to combat climate change would be unfunded.
Republicans have floated pushing for a full-year CR, Politico reported on Monday, hoping to avoid the large fiscal 2022 spending increases for domestic agencies for which Democrats have advocated. In addition to some of the usual sticking points over federal funding for abortions and the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Republicans have objected to Democrats’ efforts to increase non-defense spending at a higher rate than funding for the Pentagon.
Democrats are currently focusing on passing their Build Back Better package to spend $1.75 trillion on climate change resiliency and the social safety net, with leadership indicating it would turn Congress’ attention to annual appropriations and other pressing issues after it moves that bill. Lawmakers must also deal with a looming breach of the debt ceiling, though the exact timing of a potential default is still unclear.
Senate Democrats last month unveiled their proposals for the 12 annual spending bills, which taken together would give domestic agencies a 13% boost compared to current levels. Republicans blasted the measures and said their introduction was a "significant step in the wrong direction." Despite engaging in some bicameral and bipartisan negotiations since that time, lawmakers have appeared to make little progress. Still, they have expressed optimism they can act quickly to draft the funding bills once leadership agrees to the top-line numbers.