Washington, D.C.– Tuesday night, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would keep the government running until March 11.
Congressional negotiators have been unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on full-year spending bills for more than four months now, so the third short-term funding bill is designed to give them more time.
Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum expressed her regret that lawmakers were back in session to vote on a new spending measure.
As far as I’m aware, both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are eager to complete an omnibus spending bill for the upcoming fiscal year 2022.
In his first budget request to Congress as president, Joe Biden proposed an increase in domestic and foreign aid accounts of approximately 16.5% while increasing defense spending by approximately 1.6%.
Conservatives slammed the proposed budget cuts, arguing that the ongoing dangers posed by Russia, China, and other adversaries call for much higher defense spending levels.
An increase in defense spending of 5% this year was agreed upon in December by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, but the annual defense policy bill only authorizes the expenditure.
The Appropriations Committee is responsible for allocating money to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.
So far, appropriators have been unable to agree on how much to increase spending on dozens of federal agencies, including the National Park Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Congress has relied on temporary funding patches to prevent a government shutdown in the absence of a full-year agreement.
Legislators agreed to begin the new fiscal year under a continuing resolution that would expire on December 3rd, which they passed in September.
Two months into the two-month extension, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans made significant progress, so they opted for a second short-term spending measure to keep the lights on until February 18.
Both political parties say more time is needed to decide exactly how much money will be spent on federal programs this year, despite a recent uptick in negotiations. So the House voted 272-162 on Tuesday to send the Senate a third, three-week CR.
To fully implement the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Congress approved last year, new full-year appropriations bills are also required.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated during a floor debate on Tuesday that “an omnibus is essential” in order to free up billions of additional federal dollars for infrastructure projects. If we don’t pass an omnibus spending bill, the money will be gone forever.”
In part, because these stopgap bills largely prevent federal departments from starting new projects and limit federal spending to levels last agreed upon in December 2020, Democrats and Republicans are in agreement that this is the last time they kick the can down the road.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated on Tuesday that “our military commanders and their civilian bosses desperately need our country to escape the hamster wheel of chronic continuing resolutions.” “Continued modernization and strengthening of our military is an urgent matter that necessitates predictable budgeting and forward planning.”
Republicans in Kentucky have made it clear that they will only support a spending agreement if the defense and nondefense budgets see equal percentage increases.
Democratic senators would have to reintroduce longstanding spending policy language, including provisions that prohibit the federal government from paying for abortions with a few exceptions, into the legislation.
Furthermore, no new spending policy can be instituted without the consent of both political parties.
The bipartisan agreement should be possible with these foundational elements in place. McConnell asserted that without them, the effort would be futile.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed optimism that leaders would reach an agreement, saying negotiations had made “good progress” toward an agreement that would be acceptable to both parties.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he is “more confident than ever before” that they can come up with an omnibus bill by March 11, which is “far more preferable” than a continuing resolution (CR) for the rest of the year.
According to the New York Democrat, the Senate will vote on a bill to fund the federal government until the funding cliff occurs on February 18th.