Government funding expires in 10 days, and an omnibus spending bill is nowhere near completion as Democrats and Republicans have get to agree on the most basic element: the top-line funding levels for defense and non-defense spending. That’s remained true for well, more than a year. Because the omnibus spending bill in question is funding for this year, fiscal year 2022. The entire first year of the Biden administration has been operating under the budget imposed on the government by the Republican Senate under Trump.
This means that the House will be passing another short-term funding bill, probably by the end of Tuesday. That gives the Senate time to pass it as well before the House takes off for a Presidents’ Day recess that will last until February 28. This funding bill will last until Mar. 11.
“Our country needs a government funding agreement to create good-paying jobs, grow opportunity for the middle class, and protect our national security. We are close to reaching a framework government funding agreement, but we will need additional time to complete the legislation in full,” House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said in a statement. “This Continuing Resolution—the product of bipartisan, bicameral negotiation—extends funding through Mar. 11 to keep government up and running while Congress completes our important work.”
The bill extends current levels of government funding, including just one new spending measure of $403 million to deal with a petroleum leak in a Navy fuel storage tank in Hawaii. The spill is contaminating drinking water in Pearl Harbor, sickening some 6,000 residents and forcing about 4,000 military personnel and their families to be relocated to hotels. The legislation also directs the Defense Department to respond to an emergency order from the state of Hawaii to defuel the tanks, something the military has been fighting in court.
Meanwhile, Republicans are giving no indication they’ll back down on anything to get a deal. One senior Republican in appropriations, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, told NBC News that there are plenty of senators in his caucus that want to just keep going with these stop-gap bills, to continue to force Trump-administration funding levels. He also said that they want more military spending. That’s despite having agreed to a defense authorization bill for $778 billion that passed last year. That set the spending level for defense, but now they want to add more in appropriations. Or they want to keep dragging this out indefinitely, but it’s kind of the same difference.
The first budget request from President Joe Biden for 2022, released in April of last year, included a 16% funding increase for domestic nondefense programs and a 1.7% increase for the military. The House appropriators have hewed close to those numbers, and Senate Democrats suggested a 13% increase for nondefense programs, and 5% for defense, figuring Republicans would accept that. They haven’t. They’ve demanded “parity.”
“Number one, Democrats will need to honor the long-standing bipartisan truce that provides parity for defense and nondefense spending grow spending growth,” Mitch McConnell said earlier this year. “Number two, we must have agreement that we’re going to keep long-standing policy riders in and new poison-pill riders out.”
That means keeping the anti-abortion Hyde amendment, basically. The House, for the first time in 45 years, left it out of an authorization bill. “I know this is an issue on which many of us disagree,” DeLauro said during the committee hearing passing the bill. “But regardless of the original intent of Hyde, it has disproportionately impacted women of color, and it has ultimately led to more unintended pregnancies and later riskier, and more costly abortions,” she added.
“We are finally doing what is right for our mothers, our families, our communities by striking this discriminatory amendment, once and for all.” Hyde allows abortion only under the most restrictive of cases, when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the patient’s life, or when the pregnancy results from rape or incest.
With a 50-50 Senate, it’s going to be hard to keep Hyde out, so that’s probably already a lost battle. Reaching that toppling agreement between defense and domestic spending will remain key, and the impasse continues to cause real harm.
It also means that what the administration and Congress should be focusing on now—crafting the budget for fiscal year 2023—isn’t happening. Because that’s how Republicans want it. They don’t want government to work and are going to do the absolute minimum to keep the lights on. Because they also don’t want to be blamed for another disastrous shutdown.