The House voted 216-206 on H. Res. 467, a resolution to “deem” an overall discretionary spending limit of $1.506 trillion for its 12 fiscal year (FY) 2022 spending bills, on June 14. This limit closely matches the $1.523 trillion proposed in President Joe Biden’s FY 2022 budget request [refer to Washington Highlights, June 4]. While the vote enables House appropriators to advance funding legislation for federal agencies, inaction in the Senate may be foreshadowing a prolonged process before funding levels for the coming fiscal year are finalized.
The House discretionary spending limit — also known as the 302(a) allocation — would represent nearly $120 billion in new spending compared to FY 2021, with the opportunity for lawmakers to adjust the cap for additional spending in certain areas such as disaster relief.
Unlike the president’s request, the House resolution does not specify levels for defense and nondefense discretionary funding within the total allocation. The president’s proposal divided funding requests as $770 billion in nondefense discretionary spending and $753 billion in defense spending, increases over FY 2021 of $106 billion (16%) and $12 billion (1.7%), respectively.
With an agreement on the topline spending level, the House Appropriations Committee can now assign subcommittee-specific spending limits — also known as 302(b) allocations — for the 12 annual spending bills.
Progress in the Senate, however, has not followed the same pace. Shortly after release of the president’s full budget request at the end of May, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) stated that “it is essential that Congress, on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, work with the President to negotiate budget toplines so that we can commence the appropriations process for the fiscal year that begins October 1.”
But Republicans in both the House and Senate have balked at the overall funding levels proposed by the president and are calling for greater spending on defense. Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told press that without a bipartisan agreement on topline spending, he expects a “long, hard winter" on Capitol Hill. Shelby predicted "multiple" continuing resolutions to extend FY 2021 funding beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Because the appropriations bills will require the support of at least 60 Senators to advance, the ability of Senate leaders to negotiate allocations for the Senate spending bills will likely drive the timeline and overall funding limits, which ultimately also will need to be negotiated with the House figures.
The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, convened by the AAMC, sent a June 17 letter to both House and Senate Appropriations leadership urging a significant boost over FY 2021 levels for the FY 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) subcommittee allocation in both chambers to facilitate timely completion of the spending bills and appropriate investment in priorities such as medical research.
“We urge Congress to apply the same bipartisan approach that has been so productive in supporting the NIH [National Institutes of Health] specifically to swiftly developing a Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee allocation that will help facilitate timely enactment of an appropriation that advances the pace of medical research, the career trajectories of students and early-career investigators, and hope for patients and their families,” Executive Director Tannaz Rasouli stated in the letter. “The global COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the value of the nation’s long-standing commitment to the NIH, the need to remain vigilant in providing robust support for fundamental research as we do not know when or from where the next threat will come, and the consequences of underfunding key public health priorities,” she added.
In addition, the AAMC joined nearly 300 national organizations representing diverse stakeholders who support various Labor-HHS-Ed programs in a June 10 letter to House and Senate appropriators that advocated for an increase in the FY 2022 Labor-HHS-Ed 302(b) allocation. “We urge you to commit to improving the lives of Americans by significantly boosting the allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education bill for FY 2022 at least to match the President’s request in order to provide needed services for the American public,” the organizations wrote.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) also released the markup schedule for all 12 FY 2022 spending bills on June 15. The first subcommittee markup will take place on June 24; the Labor-HHS-Ed spending bill is expected to be marked up by the subcommittee on July 12, followed by full committee consideration on July 15. Individual subcommittee allocations are expected to be considered by the full committee at its first markup on June 29.