Senate Democrats unveil remaining spending bills, teeing up clash with Republicans

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) makes an opening statement during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to renew the Violence Against Women Act on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.
Greg Nash

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Monday unveiled the remaining batch of spending bills for fiscal 2022.

The bills include funding for commerce, defense, financial services, homeland security, labor, interior, legislative branch, foreign operations and transportation.

The bills represent nine of the 12 total appropriations bills Congress has to consider to fund the upcoming fiscal year. The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the other three spending bills for energy, agriculture and veteran affairs in early August.

Overall, the bills would include a 13 percent increase for nondefense discretionary programs and a 5 percent increase for defense-related programs, a move that has already drawn pushback from Republicans who say more funding is needed for defense spending.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has warned that Republicans will block the appropriations bills in absence of a larger bipartisan spending deal in the 50-50 Senate. But to strike a deal, he has said there would need to be equal levels of growth on defense and nondefense spending.

Leahy’s office said the legislation, which faces a tough road notching the necessary 60 votes for passage in the upper chamber, would unlock historic funding increases for a number of Democratic-backed priorities, including boosts in education, efforts aimed at combating climate change, improving health care and affordable housing.

The committee said the measures would double current funding for Title I-A grants to local educational agencies as well as boost spending for Department of Justice Violence Against Women Act programs.

There is also an 84 percent increase from the previous year’s spending levels for programs aimed at strengthening police community relations, including grants for training, de-escalation, implicit bias, and crisis intervention.

The bills would also allocate $500 million toward the Title X family planning program, which marks a 75 percent increase from last year’s levels, a 24 percent increase aimed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as increases in investments in the EPA’s clean air and climate program.

“These bills demonstrate how we can make smart investments on behalf of the American people within the topline approved by Congress, and I hope will help advance the process,” Leahy said in a statement.

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, immediately released a statement opposing the legislation, saying the bills are “filled with poison pills and problematic authorizing provisions, and they remove important legacy riders on topics like terrorism, abortion, and immigration that for years have enjoyed broad support on both sides of the aisle.”

The funding bills also noticeably do not include the Hyde amendment, which blocks people from using Medicaid and other federal health programs to cover abortions.

The amendment has been included in annual government funding bills since it was introduced by then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) in the 1970s and currently has support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Congress passed a stopgap funding bill last month to narrowly avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through early December, when it will face another fiscal deadline in order to remain fully operational.

Tags Mitch McConnell Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby
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