House passes overdue $1.5 trillion omnibus appropriations bill
Massive package heads to Senate without COVID-19 response funds
The House on Wednesday passed a fiscal 2022 omnibus spending package, as well as a four-day stopgap measure extending current funding levels through March 15 to ensure there’s no lapse in appropriations while the Senate works to get the larger measure to President Joe Biden’s desk.
But passage of the omnibus — filed in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and five months after the fiscal year began — did not come without drama. Democratic leaders had to send the bill back to the Rules Committee Wednesday evening to strip $15.6 billion in funding for immediate COVID-19 needs and move that as a stand-alone bill — which ultimately was delayed until next week.
[Pandemic aid bill pulled as House aims to wrap up omnibus]
That measure excludes a $7 billion rescission of state and local funds that some Democrats objected to in the omnibus, leaving nearly half of the emergency spending unpaid for.
The sprawling, 2,741-page omnibus would appropriate $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending across the 12 annual bills and $13.6 billion in emergency spending to address the crisis in Ukraine. It also carries a hodgepodge of unrelated bills that lawmakers are eager to advance on the must-pass vehicle.
“This bipartisan agreement will help us address many of the major challenges we face at home and abroad,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a joint statement.
Both parties compromised on their spending preferences in the agreement, which provides $782 billion for defense-related accounts and $730 billion for nondefense. Democrats secured a $46 billion, or 6.7 percent, increase in nondefense spending over last year’s level, a significant boost but less than half of what they initially proposed.
Republicans negotiated a larger defense increase than most Democrats preferred of $42 billion, or 5.6 percent, over last year, but they still fell short of perfect “parity” between the defense and nondefense increases.
The House used a process known as “dividing the question” to hold two votes on the omnibus, but the separately passed pieces will be rejoined in a single package before the measure is enrolled and sent to the Senate.
One piece, which lawmakers backed on a 260-171 vote, included the vast majority of the nondefense spending bills, the nondefense-related funding for the Ukraine crisis and most of the unrelated bills leadership attached to the omnibus given it’s must-pass status. That includes reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act, the National Flood Insurance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a livestock reporting program and more.
Other measures riding on the spending package include legislation to increase reporting of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, a provision allowing regulation of synthetic nicotine manufacturers, language intended to boost the Federal Trade Commission's ability to crack down on attempts to defraud seniors and various health provisions, like an extension of higher Medicaid reimbursements for U.S. territories.
The other vote included the three appropriations bills progressive Democrats often oppose: Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science and Homeland Security. The second piece also included the defense portions of the Ukraine supplemental, the annual intelligence authorization and a section intended to promote the U.S.-Israel relationship and back regional peace initiatives such as the Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration.
That defense and security-related piece won approval on a 361-69 vote, with more Republican support providing a wider margin than the nondefense portion.
Stopgap through Tuesday
The continuing resolution extending stopgap funding from March 11 to March 15 passed by voice vote.
The four-day stopgap, which will be the fourth Congress has passed for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, is needed because of the time it will take to enroll the massive bill, a House leadership aide said.
The Senate, theoretically, should be able to get a unanimous consent agreement to quickly pass the stopgap, even as Republicans are expected to make demands on amendment votes to allow for a time agreement to speed up consideration of the omnibus.
Even with the stopgap as a cushion, Senate leaders want to pass the omnibus before week’s end.
The fate of the standalone $15.6 billion COVID-19 aid bill is unclear since it is no longer fully offset, as Republicans demanded.
The measure would provide $10.6 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to continue procuring therapeutics and vaccines, including development of vaccines for future variants. The other $5 billion is for the State Department to increase its contributions to the global vaccination initiative and provide other pandemic-related humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations.
Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda D. Young said in a statement that the $15.6 billion only covers immediate needs and “additional resources will be needed soon to ensure we have enough treatments, vaccines, and tests for the American people and to prepare for any future variants.”
Republicans have repeatedly demanded the administration provide a “full accounting” of what has already been spent on the pandemic before they would support new funding. They reluctantly agreed to the $15.6 billion because it was offset with $15.7 billion "rescissions" of prior relief money, including the $7 billion of state and local aid that was removed as offset in the standalone bill.
'Key domestic priorities'
Despite the COVID-19 aid hiccup, Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the nondefense portion of the omnibus.
The majority celebrated their first full-year spending package of the Biden administration by touting its increases in health, education and other nondefense funding.
“This Omnibus will increase funding for key domestic priorities, including a $400 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, the establishment of President Biden’s new cancer research initiative known as ARPA-H, and so much more,” Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement. And enacting the omnibus unlocks more federal funding under our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — bringing transformational investments to roads, bridges, transit, water systems, airports, broadband and more across America.”
Democrats also applauded their effort to restore earmarks to the appropriations process after a decade-plus ban Republicans imposed.
The local project funding "meets urgent needs in districts across the country and sends a clear message to the American people that Congress is working for them," House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said.
The omnibus includes more than $4.2 billion in earmarks for House lawmakers, with nearly 60 percent of that funding directed to projects in Democrats’ districts.
Republicans submitted fewer project requests than Democrats — although many for larger amounts — since many in their party oppose earmarks and abstained from participating. This resulted in a lopsided 74 percent of the total 2,727 House-requested projects funded going to Democrats.
While some Republicans expressed thanks for the earmarks, more spent time celebrating the boost to the defense budget.
“For defense the bill provides our military and our troops with the resources they desperately need,” House Appropriations ranking member Kay Granger, R-Texas, said, crediting her party for securing a larger increase than Democrats wanted.
The GOP also took pride in touting their victory in the months-long battle to keep new partisan riders out of the omnibus while retaining legacy riders that benefit their party, like the Hyde amendment that bars federal funding for abortion in most cases.
“At no time should U.S. taxpayer dollars be used to kill the unborn,” Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said, referring to the GOP’s successful effort in getting the Hyde amendment and other anti-abortion policies restored to the bill.
DeLauro expressed frustration over her party's concession on Hyde. She said she's the “first appropriations chair since 1977 to remove it because I understand that this is an offensive and discriminatory policy which has shut out countless women from the reproductive health care that they deserve for more than 40 years.”
Paul M. Krawzak, David Lerman, Laura Weiss, and Peter Cohn contributed to this report.