Finance

Lawmakers reach $1.5T deal on government funding package

Congressional negotiators have reached a bipartisan deal on a $1.5 trillion sprawling omnibus package to fund the government, as pressure mounts on lawmakers to wrap up spending talks under the wire amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

The legislation includes what Democrats have lauded as the biggest increase to nondefense discretionary spending in four years. The GOP has also touted a $42 billion increase for defense spending in the package, saying the deal achieves dollar-for-dollar parity for defense and nondefense increases.

The bill also will include about $14 billion in emergency funding to boost humanitarian, security and economic assistance for Ukraine and central European allies amid the Russian invasion, in addition to more than $15 billion in COVID-19 supplemental funding offset by rescission of previously appropriated funds.

Top lawmakers unveiled text for the sweeping legislation to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal 2022, which ends in late September, early Wednesday.

The House is expected to take action on the legislation on Wednesday before House Democrats are scheduled to depart for a three-day retreat in Philadelphia. If passed, the Senate will likely take up the package shortly after. 

House Democrats said leaders have told members to prepare to return on Friday to vote, pending further changes to the package made in the upper chamber. However, lawmakers remain hopeful the bill will be on a fast-track to President Biden’s desk for signature, as lawmakers on both sides have signaled progress in spending negotiations across both chambers in recent weeks.

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services and education, told The Hill on Tuesday that he doesn’t think the Senate will need to send back the bill following its expected passage in the lower chamber later this week.

“I think whatever we agree to that gets filed in the House, unless there’s some filing mistake, will be the bill we vote on,”  Blunt, who is also a member of GOP leadership, said.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) also said ahead of the text’s unveiling that he expected the bill to fetch “robust” bipartisan support.

“I would expect a fairly robust vote, bipartisan vote and a lot of it has to do with, again, just a sense of urgency of getting assistance to Ukraine,” Thune said.

Among some of the highlights Democrats have noted in announcements of the deal are historic funding boosts for education, science, research and development, as well as climate change.

More than $17 billion has been outlined for Title I-A grants to local educational agencies, and the legislation includes a $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award — both of which Democrats say are the largest boosts in more than a decade.

Democrats say the measure would also expand funding in areas like affordable housing, including $280 million for 32,800 new housing vouchers, an 11 percent increase for affordable housing production via the HOME program, in addition to a 6.6 percent increase, or about $3.2 billion, for Homeless Assistance Grants.

The party also boasts historic funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to support investments in areas like vehicle technologies, wind power and solar energy, in addition to host of other climate investments.

Republicans say the legislation will also go big on defense, with more than $780 billion set aside for the Department of Defense and other defense functions, as well as an 11 percent increase from the previous fiscal year for the Department of Homeland Security.

The GOP boasted of the exclusion of “partisan poison pills” in the omnibus, including the restoration of legacy riders like the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old amendment that blocks people from using Medicaid or other federal health programs to cover abortion services.

Under a short-term continuing resolution (CR) passed last month, lawmakers have until March 11 to pass a government funding bill or risk a shutdown.

So far, Congress has had to pass three continuing resolutions for fiscal 2022 in order to buy negotiators time to hash out disagreements over spending on an array of issues, including parity between levels of growth for defense and nondefense spending, legislative riders like the Hyde Amendment and the Harris Rider, and border wall funding.

House lawmakers are also seeking to line up a vote on a fourth stopgap government funding bill to prevent a shutdown on Wednesday, the same day leaders say the chamber will take up the omnibus.

A House Democratic aide told The Hill early Wednesday that the leaders are aiming to introduce a days-long CR to fund the government through March 15 to “provide time for the omnibus to be considered in the Senate and enrolled for the president’s signature without a lapse in appropriations.”

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee say staff worked through the weekend to tie up negotiations on the sweeping legislation, and that leadership have also stepped in to hash out outstanding issues.

While Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairman Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters on Tuesday that his panel, which oversees issues like funding for the border wall and Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds, has wrapped its negotiations, he added at the time that he thought some issues “have been elevated to leadership.”

Many members anticipate lawmakers will pass the package in time for the Friday deadline. But without an agreement to speed up the bill’s passage, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said it’s possible the Senate might not pass the omnibus until Saturday.

“There’s no reason why you couldn’t get it done by Friday. But if we need Saturday or Sunday, we’ll do it then,” he told The Hill. “We’ll get it done.”

Jordain Carney and Mike Lillis contributed to this report, which was updated at 7:27 a.m.

Tags Chris Murphy Government funding deal Joe Biden John Thune Patrick Leahy Roy Blunt Susan Collins

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