Here Are 10 Major Takeaways From the $1.5 Trillion Omnibus Spending Bill
See which agencies are getting the biggest funding increases, hiring orders and new policy initiatives.
After nearly six months of continuing resolutions, Congress is finally poised to send a $1.5 trillion full-year appropriations package to President Biden for his signature.
The measure includes funding boosts for nearly every agency in government, setting line-by-line spending levels across each federal agency and program. The bill would increase non-defense discretionary spending by 6.7%, while defense spending would jump by about 6%. President Biden in his budget request sought a 16% boost for domestic agencies, but Democrats reluctantly agreed to bring that total down and meet Republican demands for parity in defense and domestic spending.
Lawmakers included funding to meet specific requests of many agencies, including money for hiring pushes, pay adjustments and implementation of new policy initiatives. They supported Biden’s efforts to stand up a new agency, though they rejected some of his largest requests for increased spending. The House passed the package on Wednesday evening and the Senate is expected to follow suit in the coming days.
Here is a look at some of the biggest impacts on federal agencies in the more than 2,700 page omnibus bill:
- Climate: Lawmakers set aside more than $20 billion for climate research and resiliency efforts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would see an 8% increase for climate change efforts, including for hiring “resilience-focused staff.” Elsewhere in the Commerce Department, Congress provided a 24% boost to the Assistance to Coal Communities Program. The Defense Department, Interior Department and loan programs to state and local governments would all see higher spending on efforts to fight climate change. Not everyone fared so well, however. While the Environmental Protection Agency would see a modest 3% bump, President Biden had sought a 22% increase. The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its funding spike by 12%, but Biden had requested a 60% jump.
- Other scientific research: Congress formally approved and funded Biden’s requested Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, providing $1 billion to stand up the new office within the National Institutes of Health. The agency will focus on developing scientific breakthroughs on diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes and cancer. The National Science Foundation would see its largest funding increase in 12 years, with its budget jumping by 4%. Lawmakers also included $194 million for Biden’s “cancer moonshot” initiative.
- Pandemic preparedness: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to see its funding increase by 7%, with a more flexible structure to allow for faster response to new issues. The Strategic National Stockpile would receive a 20% bump in appropriations, while the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority would see a 25% boost to support further research and development of vaccines and therapeutics.
- Support for the Internal Revenue Service: The IRS is poised to receive its largest funding increase in more than 20 years. About one-third of the 6% boost would go to taxpayer services, where lawmakers are authorizing new direct hire authority to help the agency address its unprecedented backlogs and poor customer service. Another third would go to tax enforcement, though Congress is authorizing the agency to transfer some of those funds to reduce the backlog. IRS is currently employing mandatory overtime and reassignments to address the crisis.
- Boosting law enforcement: Lawmakers are funding both oversight of federal law enforcement and more officers overall. The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program is set to see a 31% boost, while grants to state and local governments to help law enforcement “prevent and respond to crime” would increase 15%. The Justice Department would implement “evidence-based training” on de-escalation and use of force. Agencies throughout government would receive new money to set up or further develop body camera programs for law enforcement officers. Following Biden’s request, Customs and Border Protection would receive $74 million to beef up its Office of Professional Responsibility staffing.
- Federal officer pay and hiring: While Customs and Border Protection would see an overall spending decrease, it received $100 million to hire new Border Patrol officers, as well as to offer recruitment and retention bonuses. The Bureau of Prisons would receive nearly $200 million more than Biden’s request to “sustain and increase” its hiring efforts. Congress instructed the agency to reduce its overreliance on “augmentation” and to boost staffing “beyond mission-critical levels.” Within six months, the bureau must submit a review on its pay for correctional officers, examine potentially raising its pay bands and probe its overtime policies. The Transportation Security Administration would similarly have to provide regular updates to Congress on its pay reform efforts, hiring and retention data, and its plan for continuously investing in human capital. The Drug Enforcement Agency would receive new funds to reverse its decline in staffing levels. U.S. Capitol Police would receive a 17% funding boost to hire more 2,000 new officers and 400 civilian staff.
- Federal firefighting: The Agriculture Department’s Forest Service would receive a 6% increase to its base funding level, plus $2 billion from the Wildfire Suppression Operations Reserve. Congress directed the agency to use the money to increase its year-round staffing level, through both new hires and conversion of seasonal positions. The funding surge would “radically improve forest restoration and fire reduction efforts,” lawmakers said in a summary of the bill.
- Surprise DHS surge: Lawmakers allocated $57.5 billion to the Homeland Security Department, an increase of about 10% to its discretionary budget. That marked a significant departure from Biden’s budget, where the president requested that DHS funding stay essentially flat. After years of flat or reduced funding during the Trump administration, Congress approved a 6% bump for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE’s Enforcement and Removals Office would see a small funding increase after it dropped 8% in fiscal 2021, though lawmakers declined to fund any new hires for immigration enforcement officers. CBP’s budget is down overall, but Border Patrol’s operations spending would jump by 26%. The largely fee-funded U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which threatened to furlough about 70% of its staff in 2020 due to a budget crisis during the pandemic, is set to receive a massive 220% funding spike. Most of that money—about $275 million—would go to reducing backlogs in asylum, refugee and immigration benefit cases, including through hiring and increased overtime.
- Transportation and infrastructure: The Transportation Department’s budget is set to soar by 17%, in part to help implement the recent Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It would see an extra $3 billion for climate resiliency and greenhouse gas reduction efforts. The bill also supports newly reauthorized earmarks, with 145 House members and 62 senators ushering through airport, highway, rail and transit projects in their districts.
- Indian Health Service growth: The Indian Health Service would receive nearly $100 million for staffing at new facilities, and $259 million to build those facilities. This follows a $240 million surge for hiring stemming from COVID-19 relief funds. IHS has long suffered from understaffing and budget shortages. President Biden just announced a nominee to lead the service.