White House Urges GOP to Make 2022 Budget Offer, Begin Talks
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s top budget official urged lawmakers to swiftly broker an agreement on spending levels for federal agencies for the current fiscal year, and avoid another stopgap bill when the current short-term measure runs out in a little over six weeks.
The battle over the regular fiscal 2022 agency spending figures, and especially the amount for the Pentagon, is the next big partisan fight in Congress. That looms after Democrats finish wrangling over the longer-term tax and social safety net bill they are now attempting to ram through without GOP support, using a special legislative tool.
In a letter obtained by Bloomberg News, Acting Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging swift talks on top-line spending levels for the year that began Oct. 1. The letter was sent to House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro and top Republican Kay Granger as well as Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy and top Republican Richard Shelby.
Young urged Republicans to put forward a counteroffer to the House and Senate draft appropriations bills, which were released to the public this month. Shelby said he spoke with Young Thursday afternoon, and isn’t yet ready to make an offer. He said Democrats need to remove “poison pills” from their proposals before spending levels can be discussed.
Shelby and other Republicans have said they oppose a Democratic attempt to increase domestic programs by 13% and military programs by only 5%, and want equal bumps for both. Biden in his original request for 2022 sought a 16% increase for domestic programs and 1.6% increase for defense.
Young in her letter emphasized the need to get going on talks given the timeline.
“With only just over a month before the Dec. 3 deadline, now is the time to come together and reach an agreement that will fund core national priorities, address critical gaps, enhance our national security and advance American leadership in the world, as well as provide much needed additional relief to those communities suffering from natural disasters,” Young wrote. “We can do that without unnecessary and damaging brinksmanship that would disrupt critical public services that the American people rely on.”
The 12 draft bills cover regular agency spending, distinct from the longer-term economic bills now before Congress. Democratic congressional leaders are hoping to pass Biden’s estimated $2 trillion tax and social safety net package and a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bills in the coming days.
Lawmakers will then need to pivot to avoiding a government shutdown after Dec. 3, when the current stopgap funding measure runs out, addressing the federal debt ceiling. The Treasury’s borrowing authority is set to run out around the same Dec. 3 deadline.
The regular federal agency funding bills can only pass Congress with Republican help -- so long as the Senate filibuster rule requiring 60 votes remains in place. The Senate is currently split 50-50.
Even after the overall levels of spending are decided, lawmakers must hammer out other disputes, including a Democratic attempt to allow federal funding for abortion services.
Young wrote, “We look forward to seeing a proposal from the House and Senate minorities, as the next step in a bipartisan process to reach agreement.”
DeLauro separately invited Shelby, Granger and Leahy to meet next week to kick off the talks.
Shelby said he will accept the DeLauro invitation to meet next week but thought getting all 12 bills done by Dec. 3 would be hard.
“It would take a miracle,” he said.
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