Congressional negotiators roll out sweeping $1.7 trillion funding bill
Congressional negotiators unveiled a mammoth $1.7 trillion funding bill early Tuesday, as leaders scramble to quickly sort out government funding for fiscal 2023 before the end of the month.
The 4,155-page funding package, which lawmakers hope to pass later this week, includes $772.5 billion in nondefense discretionary spending, and $858 billion in defense funding, a figure in line with the dollar level set by the National Defense Authorization Act that passed both chambers earlier this month.
Negotiators say they settled on more than $45 billion in funding to support Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing invasion, up from the $37.7 billion that the White House requested in assistance last month.
Negotiators say the legislation also includes $38 billion in emergency disaster assistance.
“Passing this bipartisan, bicameral, omnibus appropriations bill is undoubtedly in the interest of the American people,” Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said. “It is the product of months of hard work and compromise, and I want to thank my friends Vice Chairman [Richard] Shelby [R-Ala.’ and Chair [Rosa] DeLauro [D-Conn.] for their partnership and hard work.”
Leahy, who is retiring at the end of the year, urged his colleagues to pass the massive spending package, warning failure to do so would leave money for Ukraine and disaster assistance in limbo.
“A continuing resolution into the New Year does not … provide assistance to Ukraine or help to communities recovering from natural disasters. The choice is clear. We can either do our jobs and fund the government, or we can abandon our responsibilities without a real path forward,” he said.
The package consists of all 12 annual appropriations bills Congress must pass, and would fund the government through the remainder of fiscal 2023, which runs through September.
Hours ahead of the package’s unveiling, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) boasted of the increase in proposed defense funding as significant when compared to the smaller increase seen in nondefense funding levels that would be set in the omnibus.
McConnell said the bill would provide “a substantial real-dollar increase to the defense baseline and a substantial real-dollar cut to the nondefense, nonveterans baseline.” He noted that, unlike the proposed defense budget, the nondefense baseline would see an increase below the rate of inflation.
“The bipartisan government funding bill that Sens. Shelby and Leahy have finished negotiating does exactly the opposite of what the Biden administration first proposed,” he said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.
Negotiators say the defense funding baseline saw about a 10 percent increase, compared to almost half that increase for the nondefense baseline, when not factoring in the veterans funding — which Democrats had previously pressed be categorized in its own section in spending talks.
By comparison, the annual inflation rate hit 7.1 percent last month.
On top of the defense spending, GOP appropriators also highlight the 4.6 percent pay raise for military members.
Democrats, meanwhile, are highlighting various investments in health care and research, such as $47.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $9.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $1.5 billion for an effort by President Biden aimed at fighting cancer and $950 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program saw a $13.4 billion increase, and the bill contains a boost of $28.5 billion for child nutrition programs as well as $6 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Democratic negotiators are also touting $1.435 billion for the Housing for the Elderly and Housing for Persons with Disabilities program and new Section 8 housing choice vouchers they say would help more than 11,000 additional low-income households.
They say the bill would also raise the “maximum Pell Grant award to $7,395, [and includes] $18.387 billion for Title I-A grants, and $1.2 billion for TRIO to support more than 800,000 low-income first-generation students get into college and succeed when they’re there.”
The package also provides $40 billion in disaster assistance and a $119 billion or 22 percent increase in spending for Veterans Affairs medical care.
Additionally, it includes a ban on TikTok on federal government phones as well as the Electoral Count Act, which clarifies the vice president’s role in certifying a presidential election as ceremonial.
After weeks of negotiation, Democrats agreed to a bigger increase for defense programs than nondefense programs, a demand made by McConnell and other Republicans as a condition for passing a year-end omnibus instead of a stop-gap spending measure that would have punted spending decisions into 2023.
Republicans pressed hard for domestic spending that Democrats passed in packages without GOP support, like the Inflation Reduction Act and the American Rescue Plan, to also be factored into negotiations, while pressing for a drawdown in nondefense spending.
One of the biggest battles seen in the weeks leading up to the bill brewed within the GOP over how long Congress should delay setting new government funding levels for fiscal 2023, which began in October.
Republicans in both chambers have been pressuring leaders to hold off new government funding until early next year, when the House ushers in a GOP-led majority, to give the party more influence over how agencies should be funded through next fall.
“I object to the way we run our government, the way Congress really abdicates its power of the purse,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Monday, lamenting the omnibus as “thousands of pages long created by a few people basically in secret.”
“I object to a trillion deficit being added to our total tab of $31 trillion. So I object to the entire process — to the spending, to the debt being added. How that works out this week I don’t know yet, but I promise you we’re going to be very loud,” he added.
However, many Republicans have pushed back on the idea, instead citing concerns about funding for national security and defense.
It’s unclear when the bill will come to the floor, but the Senate is expected to vote on the legislation by Dec. 22.
Its expected passage in the days ahead will cap off months of stalemates and haggling between both sides over issues like levels of growth for defense and nondefense spending and decades-old riders.
The legislation was held up for a few hours Monday afternoon because outgoing House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other Maryland lawmakers pushed to include language in the omnibus that favored Maryland over Virginia as the site of the new FBI headquarters.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) helped broker a compromise by adding language to ensure the General Services Administration will conduct separate and detailed consultations with representatives from Maryland and Virginia on siting requirements for the new headquarters.
Congress currently has until Friday to pass funding legislation to stave off a shutdown.
— Al Weaver and Alexander Bolton contributed to this report, which was updated at 9:52 a.m.
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