White House delays release of budget plan

President Joe Biden
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The White House is delaying the release of its top-line spending request for the 2022 fiscal year, further putting off the start of the annual process of funding the government despite earlier indications that the proposal would be released this week.

“We’re planning to release the discretionary request soon,” said Rob Friedlander, the spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Republicans have hammered the White House for its delays on the proposal.

Budget law sets February as the deadline for the president’s budget request, though new administrations typically draw the process out, but only until mid-March.

“Rather than being left in the dark, American families deserve to know how high the Biden Administration will raise their taxes or how much it will borrow against the country’s future in pursuit of its agenda,” Rep. Jason Smith (Mo.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, said in March.

Smith pointed out that Biden’s proposal has been later than those of his predecessors, who all submitted at least a “skinny” budget with basic outlines for taxing and spending by March 16 before trotting out a fuller proposal later on.

But the White House is not even using the term “skinny budget” or “budget blueprint” to describe the forthcoming release, signaling that the proposal will likely be limited to narrow figures on defense and nondefense discretionary spending.

The White House did not commit to releasing the budget next week, though members of Congress expect the release will not be significantly delayed.

The delay follows reports that Biden has still not settled on final defense figures. While many in Washington were expecting Biden to hold defense spending even, progressive Democrats have been pushing to scale back the Pentagon budget.

“Rather than requesting a flat Pentagon budget, we urge you to seek a significantly reduced Pentagon topline,” a group of 50 progressives led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) wrote to Biden two weeks ago.

“Hundreds of billions of dollars now directed to the military would have greater return if invested in diplomacy, humanitarian aid, global public health, sustainability initiatives, and basic research,” they added.

But such a move could face opposition from centrist Democrats facing tough reelections, as well as GOP senators whose support will ultimately be needed to approve spending legislation.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who heads the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, brushed aside concerns over the delay.

“We expect President Biden’s top-line budget any time and it will responsibly address our national security requirements while investing in critical future defense priorities,” she said.

“As soon as we receive our subcommittee’s allocation, my focus is on working with appropriators and all of my House colleagues to move the best defense appropriations bill possible through the House and into conference.”

The White House has long cited the Office of Management and Budget as one of the agencies most affected by a lack of cooperation from the outgoing Trump administration during the transition period.

“There were some challenges that came about during the transition in terms of a bit of intransigence from the outgoing administration and lack of cooperation as it related to OMB and the budget process, so we expect there to be a delay in the release of his first budget,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in February.

The Biden administration has faced additional delays getting leadership in place at the agency after Biden’s pick to lead the department, Neera Tanden, withdrew her nomination last month when her chances of confirmation became increasingly dim. The White House has still yet to name a nominee for OMB director, but deputy director Shalanda Young is expected to run the agency in an acting capacity in the meantime.

Tags Barbara Lee Betty McCollum biden administration Budget Federal budget Jason Smith Jen Psaki Joe Biden Mark Pocan Neera Tanden

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