Senate passes $1.5T funding bill
Domestic agencies will see a collective 6.7% budget increase as lawmakers avoid shutdown.
The Senate on Thursday approved a $1.5 trillion omnibus funding bill, sending the measure boosting agency spending across government to President Biden’s desk just one day before the deadline for a shutdown.
Congress approved the bill nearly halfway through the fiscal year, after Biden signed three previous stopgap measures into law. Lawmakers moved with unusual speed after appropriators unveiled the long-awaited spending package early Wednesday morning, leading the House to pass it later that day. The measure will provide a 6.7% funding increase to non-defense agencies and a 6% boost to the Pentagon.
Senate leadership agreed to the expedited timeline after allowing certain amendments to move forward, none of which passed. The votes came together quickly after months of delay, in large part due to disagreement over the top-line funding levels for domestic and defense spending. President Biden and congressional Democrats had sought to provide only a small increase to the Pentagon’s budget while dramatically raising domestic agencies’ budgets by as much as 16%, but negotiators ultimately agreed to a smaller and near-equal adjustment. The Senate agreed to the measure by a 68-31 margin.
The omnibus will include $13.6 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies. About half of the Ukraine money will go to the Defense Department, while about $4 billion will go to the State Department and other agencies to provide humanitarian assistance such as food and shelter to Ukrainian refugees in Europe. The departments of Treasury, Energy, Commerce and Justice will all receive funds to enforce sanctions and for other efforts to combat Russian aggression. An additional $15 billion for COVID-19 relief efforts was stripped from the House bill at the 11th hour after a disagreement over offsets to the spending.
“This bill makes bold investments in critical areas that went underfunded or even neglected in the previous administration, including education, childcare, healthcare, the environment, science and research, and many more,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of the chief architects of the bill. “It is unquestionably in the interest of the American people that the House and the Senate act quickly to pass this bill and send it to the president.”
Nearly every federal agency would see a funding increase under the measure, though some are set to receive larger bumps than others. Biden had pushed to keep spending at the Homeland Security Department flat in fiscal 2022, but Congress instead opted to provide an 11% increase. As the Transportation Department begins implementing much of the recent Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, it is set to receive a 17% funding increase. Lawmakers set aside more than $20 billion for research and resilience efforts related to climate change and $1 billion to stand up Biden’s proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.
The Internal Revenue Service would see its largest funding boost in more than 20 years as the agency faces an unprecedented backlog of tax returns and unanswered calls from taxpayers. IRS announced on Thursday it would use money from the omnibus to hire 10,000 new employees under direct hire authority, which Congress encouraged the agency to use as part of the spending bill.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Thursday evening that Biden would sign the measure, saying it would support the Ukrainian people, help cure diseases and support law enforcement. She called on Congress to act separately to pass the emergency pandemic funding.
The bill “ends a damaging series of short-term continuing resolutions that have undermined the government’s ability to meet pressing challenges,” Psaki said. “We thank leaders in the House and Senate for their partnership in getting this bill done, and the president looks forward to signing it into law.”
Agencies have been operating under a CR since Oct. 1, leaving in place spending levels signed into law by President Trump in 2020. Democrats were eager to boost funding, but negotiations dragged on for months as Republicans insisted on a lower total and more money for the Pentagon. The Senate also unanimously approved a four-day stopgap bill on Thursday evening that the House has already passed, just in case the omnibus does not receive Biden’s signature in time to avoid a shutdown late Friday.
Read more on the biggest impacts the omnibus will have on federal agencies here.