The House began consideration of more than $1 trillion in proposed government funding for the coming fiscal year Wednesday, as Democratic leadership set their sights on passing all of the chamber’s annual appropriations bills before recess in August.
Appropriators moved on Democratic-backed funding proposals for a variety of areas like defense, security for the U.S. Capitol, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), child nutrition programs and veterans affairs, among others.
House negotiators opened the day with a closed-door markup on the draft defense funding bill, which outlines proposed fiscal year 2023 funding for the Department of Defense (DoD), and offices like the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.
The bill, which passed the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, totals more than $761 billion in proposed funding, up $32.207 billion from the previous year’s spending levels.
The legislation includes investments in security assistance to Ukraine, national security, as well as proposals to shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and limit U.S. involvement in Yemen.
The price tag is in line with what President Biden requested in his fiscal 2023 budget, but Republicans are expected to press for more money amid rising inflation.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, told The Hill on Wednesday that his panel will be planning to kick up its work “in earnest” in the coming days, but added he thinks “the Senate bill is going to be different” from the House version.
Last week, the House kickstarted the annual appropriations process with a deeming resolution instead of a budget resolution, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have struggled to reach an agreement on spending toplines.
Democrats say the newly passed resolution, which has prompted mixed reactions from Republicans, aligns with Biden’s requested $1.6 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal year 2023, which will begin Oct. 1. Negotiators say the procedure allows appropriators to begin their work in a timely fashion, while leaders work out a larger agreement.
“We know that that will not be … the ultimate number, but it is a number that will give us a parameter in which the House appropriations process can go forward and we can put bills on the floor in July, after they’re completed this month by the Appropriations Committee,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said last week.
The House’s appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch also approved its fiscal year 2023 funding bill, as well as the subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs, and the subcommittee on agriculture, rural development and the FDA.
The first of the funding bills seeks to boost funding for the Capitol Police, with aims at hiring more officers and improving training. The bill, which proposes $5.7 billion in spending, up 20.1 percent from fiscal 2022, would also invest in security for the Capitol Complex, and seeks to provide increased funding for income for interns.
The military construction funding bill offers $314.1 billion, up more than 10 percent from the last fiscal year’s levels, outlines healthcare investments for veterans, infrastructure for family housing and childcare centers, in addition to Veterans Affairs facilities.
Legislation passed by the lower chamber’s agriculture subcommittee would also approve more than $27 billion in funding for items like Child Nutrition programs, which offer school meals, mandatory programs like SNAP and proposals aimed at rebuilding public health infrastructure.
Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) also said the bill will help “create a more resilient baby formula market with increased funding for workers at the Food and Drug Administration to inspect baby formula and review new products.”
“The funding will make food safer by strengthening our response to foodborne illness outbreaks,” she added. “Additionally, investments in international food assistance and SNAP, WIC, and other child nutrition programs will strengthen our safety net against hunger and promote health and nutrition security.”
All of the four bills marked up Wednesday now head to the lower chamber’s full committee for consideration, but not without opposition from Republicans, who have criticized Democrats for setting a topline they say was decided without GOP input.
In hearings on Wednesday, Rep. Kay Granger (Texas), top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, knocked Democratic-backed draft legislation she compared to a “liberal wish list,” while echoing concerns from other Republicans over price tags.
Republicans also drew battle lines around certain proposals, including language related to Guantanamo Bay and increases for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
House Democrats on Wednesday also rolled out text for the draft Financial Services and General Government funding bill and the Homeland Security funding bill – both of which will be considered in their respective subcommittees on Thursday.
The Senate, by contrast, has yet to unveil any of its dozen annual government funding bills, in absence of a larger topline agreement, which already has prompted finger-pointing among leaders.
In remarks to The Hill earlier this week, Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called it a “bad sign that the Republicans say they want a continuing resolution to the end of the year.”
If lawmakers are unable to pass its spending bills by the annual deadline at the end of September, Congress will likely resort to a continuing resolution (CR), which allows the government to remain funded under the prior year’s fiscal levels, to avoid a shutdown.
Last year, Congress passed three CRs to avert a shutdown before passing a $1.5 trillion spending omnibus package for fiscal year 2022 in March.
The delayed passage followed monthslong disagreements over issues like parity between defense and nondefense spending levels and legacy riders with restrictions in areas such as abortion and marijuana.
But, with the critical midterm elections in November, and both of the Senate’s top appropriators retiring, the pressure is on both sides to tie up their work in a timely fashion.
Granger acknowledged in hearings on Wednesday that she and others “agree” it’s time negotiators pick up the appropriations process.
“By moving bills through the committee and to the floor, we can start the necessary work of improving these bills so they can be signed into law,” Granger said, calling the first round of markups “just the first step in the process.”
Mike Lillis contributed to this report.