House approves more than $400 billion of government funding in ‘minibus’ package
The House on Wednesday passed a sprawling spending package for the coming fiscal year, approving more than $400 billion in government spending ahead of the August recess.
The lower chamber voted 220 to 207 in a largely party-line vote to pass the so-called “minibus” package, which contains six spending bills providing fiscal 2023 funding for various agencies, including the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Transportation (DOT), Agriculture, Energy and Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as the Food and Drug Administration.
Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement that the Democratic-backed legislation is tackling “some of our nation’s biggest challenges by combatting climate change, bolstering mental health services, supporting our Veterans, and building safer communities with less crime and violence and more security.”
“As we move the Appropriations process forward to enact these essential priorities, we will continue to fight for the lifeline that the middle class, working families, small businesses, and vulnerable Americans need,” she added.
The passage caps off days of the legislation’s consideration in the lower chamber and comes after House negotiators spent weeks crafting the bills in committee ahead of the previous July 4 recess.
The House still has six remaining annual spending bills that leaders hope to bring to the floor later this month, but the timing on when remains unclear.
The legislation passed Wednesday includes funding for a slew of Democratic-backed priorities, with a proposed 18 percent boost in spending from the current fiscal year’s levels for the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy and related agencies, as well as double digit spending increases in areas like military construction and the VA, HUD and DOT.
The House also approved a 17 percent boost in dollars for the 2023 financial services and general government funding, which includes funding for the Small Business Administration, election security grants and measures Democrats say are aimed at rebuilding the IRS to ensure wealthy corporations and individuals pay their “fair share.”
But despite speedy appropriations work seen in the House in recent weeks, Senate negotiators have yet to publicly roll out text for any of their dozen annual spending bills. Leaders are struggling to strike a larger bipartisan deal on how to fund the government.
Senate Democrats are expected to drop text for spending legislation by the end of the month, but Republicans argue those bills will be partisan.
Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, told The Hill he hasn’t “seen or been asked for any input” on his subpanel’s spending bill expected to be unveiled soon.
Instead, he’s focusing on “what the bill [will look] like in December.”
“I think that’s pretty much what everybody’s thinking,” Blunt said.
Congress has until the end of September, when government funding is scheduled to run out, to pass its annual spending legislation.
But negotiators say Congress will more than likely have to pass a continuing resolution, which will allow the government to remain funded at the previous year’s fiscal levels and buy lawmakers time for a deal.
Negotiators have pointed to the absence of an agreement on a spending top line as one of the biggest obstacles to Congress finishing up its appropriations work on time amid partisan disagreements over defense spending.
Last month, the House appropriators passed a fiscal 2023 defense bill offering about $761.7 billion in total funding, a $32.2 billion increase from the current fiscal year. The figure was in line with the amount President Biden asked for in his budget request earlier this year, but has drawn pushback from Republicans who say more is needed amid rising inflation.
Republicans have instead pointed to the recent version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which provided a $45 billion increase above Biden’s request in defense dollars, as a more workable number.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said on Wednesday that he also plans to look “closely” at proposed dollars for defense in the spending legislation set to be unveiled soon.
“One, do they meet this challenge of inflation to begin with? And we’re not sure about that,” he said.