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Appropriators reach ‘framework’ deal on fiscal 2022 spending

Negotiators optimistic, but many details remain unclear

From left, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., speak to reporters as they leave a meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday, February 1.
From left, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., speak to reporters as they leave a meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday, February 1. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders said Wednesday they have a deal on a “framework” that will allow them to start writing compromise spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., put out statements Wednesday afternoon announcing the pact. A spokeswoman for Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby confirmed Republicans also view what the Alabama senator described earlier in the day as “an understanding” as an official agreement. 

Neither side revealed any details of what the framework entails.

A source familiar with the negotiations said the agreement is to have “parity,” or equal increases for defense and nondefense spending, and to start further negotiations leaving current law policy riders in place. All four committee leaders would have to agree to remove or add any other riders, the source said.

That means the longstanding Hyde amendment barring federal funding for abortion in most cases will likely be in the final package, since Republicans would object to removing it as Democrats have proposed.

“I am pleased that we have reached agreement on a framework, which will allow our subcommittees to get to work finalizing an omnibus,” DeLauro said, adding that appropriators will “now proceed with great intensity to enact legislation.”

Leahy said both sides compromised in negotiations and called the result a “strong, bipartisan agreement that will allow us to make significant investments in the American people and our communities.”

While the Democrats did not mention specific funding levels, Leahy said the deal will “provide increases for health care, education, our national security, and invest in the middle class, among other priorities.” 

‘Not unhappy’

Appropriators have been trading offers on defense and nondefense spending levels for weeks, so it was curious that their pronouncements on a framework included no mention of those funding levels. 

Shelby was cagey about the agreement. “Well, we haven’t signed anything. … We trust each other,” he said.

Shelby wouldn’t confirm his goal of achieving parity for defense and nondefense increases in the bills had been met, suggesting there was still some work to do hammering out those details.

“I hope so. We think so,” he said when asked if the framework endorses parity. “That’s a must, you know that. But I’m not in position to say except we got the framework to go forward.”

“I’m not unhappy,” Shelby added.

Specifically Shelby said he’s “satisfied” with how the framework addresses defense spending, although Republicans will want to ensure the package lives up to the goals achieved in the framework. They’ll have leverage to do so given the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate on appropriations and other legislation.

“We won’t have a bill until we have parity. I’ve said that all along,” Shelby said.

Shelby and DeLauro have been saying for days that appropriators were close to a framework agreement, but House Appropriations ranking member Kay Granger, R-Texas, said Tuesday evening she had “no idea” if that was actually the case.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had also predicted throughout the week an agreement was imminent, praised the framework while noting the additional work ahead. 

“There’s still more to go, but they’re on a very good path,” Schumer told reporters.

Pelosi said in a statement that the framework allows for “bold new investments” in American families, workers and jobs.   

“As Democrats continue to negotiate specific funding levels and policy provisions, we will not relent in our mission to deliver” on party priorities, she said.

Stopgap on tap

The House on Tuesday passed a third continuing resolution for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 that would extend current funding levels through March 11. The previous stopgap expires Feb. 18. Schumer said Wednesday his chamber will take up the stopgap measure “next week.”

[Stopgap bill passes House as appropriators narrow differences]

Senate leaders were still working through the process of clearing holds on the short-term bill, including one from Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn in protest over what she alleged were inappropriate uses of taxpayer dollars at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Blackburn cited the distribution of “safe smoking kits” as part of a $30 million “harm reduction grants” program overseen by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Blackburn and others, including Tom Cotton, R-Ark., say HHS has been funding “crack pipes” in low-income communities with the appropriation.

HHS officials dispute that contention. In a statement Wednesday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta said “no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”

Blackburn did not find that statement to be enough of an assurance and is calling on HHS to reissue the grant program before she lifts her hold. 

Becerra’s claim means “nothing” because the program “specifically allows for government-funded smoking kits,” she said in a statement. “We will not allow this administration to continue lying to the American people.”

Paul M. Krawzak, Laura Weiss and Lauren Clason contributed to this report.

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