House floor action on appropriations will begin the last week before the scheduled August recess with a $617 billion package combining seven fiscal 2022 spending bills, bringing debates about federal funding for abortion, environmental policy and infrastructure to the forefront in that chamber.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter released Thursday that the chamber will take up the Agriculture, Energy-Water, Financial Services, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD measures in one bundle the week of July 26. That’s about 40 percent of the proposed operating budgets for federal agencies next year.
Hoyer added that lawmakers that week could take up some of the remaining bills —Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations and Legislative Branch — though that could be a stretch given the narrow Democratic majority, lack of Republican support for the bills and limited floor time.
The House Appropriations Committee has spent the past several weeks marking up the dozen spending bills on largely party-line votes. The panel is down to the last two, considering the Energy-Water and Transportation-HUD bills in full committee on Friday.
Republican appropriators have repeatedly voiced opposition to Democrats writing their bills to a $1.5 trillion discretionary spending level that largely mirrors President Joe Biden’s budget request. They argue his proposed increase of 16.5 percent for domestic and foreign aid programs is too large and a 1.6 percent increase to defense discretionary spending is too small to gain the bipartisan support needed for the bills to become law.
GOP lawmakers have also chided their Democratic colleagues for making several changes to long-standing federal spending policy, including removing provisions throughout several of the bills that barred federal funding for abortion services with exceptions for rape, incest or the woman’s life.
The Labor-HHS-Education bill holds one of the more high-profile of those spending restrictions. The so-called Hyde amendment, first enacted in 1976, has been at the forefront of Republican objections to the bill.
Packaging that bill with six others could give moderate Democrats some cover to vote for a package that no longer carries that prohibition, though leaders cannot afford more than four defections on final passage — three, if the GOP winner of a July 27 special election for Texas’ 6th District is sworn in quickly.
Hoyer said some of the bills not currently scheduled for floor debate “require additional coordination with authorizing committees” before they’d be ready for votes.
If the House approves the seven-bill package, it will head to the Senate where appropriators in that chamber have yet to schedule markups, though Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., has expressed hope the panel will begin debate on some of the measures before the summer recess begins.
Leahy and ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., are separately in negotiations on an emergency spending bill to address Capitol Hill security and the relocation of Afghans who assisted the U.S. government.
Both lawmakers have said they hope to complete that supplemental spending bill before the August break begins, given that the U.S. Capitol Police and National Guard would otherwise run into funding shortfalls if not reimbursed for costs associated with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
If the House and Senate cannot agree to all dozen full-year spending measures before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, they’ll likely pass a short-term spending bill that would extend current spending levels and policy. A continuing resolution, or stopgap funding, has become standard practice for lawmakers who haven’t completed all of the annual spending bills on time, since 1996.