House passes sprawling spending bill ahead of fall shutdown fight
The House on Thursday passed a sprawling appropriations package to fund the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Veterans Affairs and other agencies and set a marker in negotiations to avoid a government shutdown when current funding expires this fall.
The package, which includes seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills to fund the government for the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, passed the lower chamber 219-208 along party lines.
Thursday’s vote follows the passage of two separate spending bills by the House the day before that would boost funding for the Capitol Police and other legislative branch operations and provide funding for the State Department.
The package passed on Thursday, totaling $617 billion in discretionary spending, would increase funding for several federal agencies and policy areas President Biden has outlined as key priorities for his legislative agenda, including in education, child care and public health.
“After decades of disinvestment and the devastation of the pandemic, the time is now to reinvest in the American people,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
Despite House Democrats passing at least nine of the 12 annual appropriations bills before departing for the August recess, it appears likely that Congress will nevertheless turn to a temporary spending patch to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
The Senate, meanwhile, has yet to take up any appropriations bills for the new fiscal year.
Republicans argued the overall domestic spending levels set by Democrats were too high while not going far enough for defense programs.
They further took issue with Democrats stripping the bill of two abortion-related provisions: the Hyde Amendment, a longstanding policy barring the use of federal funds for abortions, as well as the Weldon Amendment, which prohibits agencies receiving federal funding from “discriminating” against entities because they refuse to provide or pay for abortions.
“This is not the way to do business if we want to enact full-year appropriations bills this year,” said Rep. Kay Granger (Texas), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.
“We have countless policy differences that will take time to resolve, and protecting the lives of unborn children must be the first step,” she said.
A number of Democrats have argued the provisions, which have been included in federal spending bills for the past four decades and have seen bipartisan support over the years, are discriminatory policy and deny low-income women the right to an abortion.
“These provisions have long had a terrible and disproportionate impact on low-income women and women of color. Getting them off the books will be a huge step forward for reproductive and racial justice,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.
The package — which spans the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, Treasury, Interior and Veterans Affairs — includes a variety of funding increases to reflect Democratic agenda priorities.
The Department of Education would be allocated $102.8 billion under the package, a $29.3 billion increase from the previous fiscal year and the same as Biden’s budget request, with high-water marks set for funding for high-poverty schools and students with disabilities.
Federal student aid programs would receive $27.2 billion in funding, $2.64 billion more than the last fiscal year, with increases to the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, and for the Federal Work-Study program.
The package met Biden’s budget request for funding for minority-serving institutions (MSI) with $1.13 billion for the institutions, marking a $345 million increase.
Out of that figure, $402.6 million will be allocated to historically Black colleges and universities, as Biden requested, marking an increase of $65 million from the current level. Over $236 million will be allocated to Hispanic-serving institutions, also as Biden asked, a $88 million jump from the previous fiscal year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would receive $10.6 billion under the package, which is $1 billion more than Biden previously requested and would be $2.7 billion more than it was provided in the previous fiscal year.
The bill also includes investments for the country’s public health infrastructure, with funding allocated for modernizing public health data surveillance and analytics at the CDC and local health agencies, as well as National Center for Health Statistics, in addition to other efforts.
The legislation included increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute, and for research initiatives for HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as the offices of Research on Women’s Health, the Behavioral and Social Science Research and Research Centers in Minority Institutions.
Another provision, reflecting a key Democratic priority, would provide $50 million for gun violence prevention research at the NIH and CDC.
The spending package would also increase the budget for the IRS, as well as allocate an additional $417 million focused on reducing the “tax gap” between the amount of taxes paid and the amount owed.
It’s unclear when the House will take up the three remaining appropriations bills to fund the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice. Those measures invite the possibility of divisive debate among Democrats over the Pentagon budget, immigration and policing.
For now, House Democrats are passing as many appropriations bills as they can with their narrow majority and continue a practice over the last few years to get most of the measures done before autumn.
“Moving the appropriations process along on time made it easier to forestall shutdowns and fund the government for the American people,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Naomi Jagoda contributed.
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