Finance

House to advance appropriations bills in June, July

The House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees are planning to mark up the 12 spending bills to fund the government for the 2022 fiscal year in June, with floor passage expected in July.

"The subcommittee and full committee markups will be in June, and we will be on the floor in July," Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said Thursday at a Brookings event.

President Biden has requested $1.5 trillion in spending for the year, including a 16 percent increase in nondefense spending and a 1.7 percent boost for defense funds.

The overall request is 8.4 percent higher than current spending, not including emergency COVID-19 funds. 

Biden has yet to roll out a full budget proposal, which would include plans for mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as a 10-year spending plan. That request is expected in the coming weeks.

The House version of the bills will include a reintroduced version of earmarks, known as "congressionally directed spending," which are specific requests for funding projects from members.

Supporters of the policy say it will help members deliver tangible results to their districts, and smooth the way for bipartisan cooperation.

The new process includes strict new guardrails, capping the number of requests per member, limiting projects to nonprofit entities, publicly disclosing requests ahead of time and requiring declarations that the members or their families do not have financial interests in the projects. 

"I know what scrutiny there will be in regards to these projects. They are being carefully vetted," DeLauro said.

While both parties approved the return of earmarks in the House, Senate Republicans nominally banned their use. 

But there are no consequences for participating in the earmark process, and some Senate Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), have already indicated that they are likely to take advantage of the process in order to direct funds toward projects in their states.

While the House is set to move its spending bills along, the Senate is likely to lag. The 60-vote threshold for passing spending bills in the upper chamber means bipartisan agreements will need to be reached on spending levels before appropriations bills can advance.

That could delay the process past the Sept. 30 deadline for funding the government, meaning a stopgap measure will be necessary to prevent a shutdown. 

Further complicating things will be the need to address the debt limit.

A Thursday estimate from the Bipartisan Policy Center predicted that Congress will need to act by Oct. 1 to avoid a default, which would set off a global financial crisis. 

When former President Obama was in office, Republicans used the debt limit as a bargaining chip to force concessions on spending and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

Democrats could address the debt with just 50 votes in the Senate by using budget reconciliation, a process that can sidestep the filibuster.

Senate Democrats are considering using the process to pass Biden's $4 trillion infrastructure and family support bills should Biden fail to reach a deal with Senate Republicans.

But a recent ruling from the Senate parliamentarian could allow Democrats additional opportunities to pass reconciliation bills, which have traditionally been limited to one per fiscal year.

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