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Senate appropriators ready emergency adds to spending bills

Bipartisan pact would provide billions of dollars more for both defense and nondefense programs in next fiscal year

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., left, speaks with ranking member Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, before a hearing on Nov. 8, 2023.
Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., left, speaks with ranking member Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, before a hearing on Nov. 8, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Appropriations Committee leaders have agreed to add $34.5 billion in emergency spending to their fiscal 2025 bills on top of levels agreed to in last year’s debt limit negotiations, sources familiar with the talks said Monday. 

Under the pact between Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, defense accounts would receive an extra $21 billion in emergency spending while nondefense programs would get $13.5 billion. 

The agreement would pave the way for a nearly $30 billion, or more than 3 percent increase, for the Pentagon and other security-related agencies above the fiscal 2024 enacted levels. Meanwhile nondefense agencies would receive a roughly $21 billion boost, just shy of 3 percent above the final spending packages for this year. That figure could change with various other nondefense “adjustments” once all the bills are drafted.

Those numbers represent a significant increase from the caps laid out in the debt limit law and associated “side deal” allowing various nondefense increases without technically violating the caps. Last year’s deal allowed for 1 percent increases for both defense and nondefense spending. 

By contrast, the House versions of fiscal 2025 spending bills would provide that 1 percent increase for defense, in line with the statutory caps. But GOP appropriators in that chamber ignore most of the side deal adjustments, resulting in effective cuts to nondefense programs of between 6 and 7 percent on average.

‘Serious shortfalls’

Murray confirmed the deal with her GOP counterpart in a statement Monday afternoon. She didn’t provide specific figures, but made clear both sides of the aisle agreed that 1 percent increases were too skimpy given the needs in both spending categories. She cited inflation, which has come down recently but is still hovering around 3 percent year over year.

The bipartisan agreement would “provide much-needed additional nondefense and defense funding to address serious shortfalls, tackle urgent new challenges here at home and abroad, and invest in families and our country’s future,” Murray said.

Senate Republican appropriators gathered Monday night to discuss the deal and the path forward. Collins said following that meeting that the accord would provide the military funding it desperately needs.

“The president’s budget was grossly inadequate for the threats we face today,” Collins said. “So I felt very strongly that the Appropriations Committee should follow the lead of the Armed Services Committee,” which provided for a nearly $25 billion boost for national defense programs in the Senate’s defense authorization bill. 

Collins said appropriators’ defense increase was “remarkably close” to the amount authorizers endorsed, and said the nondefense figure would address “deficiencies” which Murray felt strongly about. 

“I believe it will allow us to fulfill our obligations to the people of this country,” Collins said. 

Other Republican appropriators, including State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Lindsey Graham, said they supported the emergency spending pact. Graham said the agreement was the best deal Republicans could get. 

“I think it is essential for the military,” Graham, R-S.C., said. “I think Susan and Patty worked out something that makes sense.” 

Murray and Collins reached the agreement ahead of the committee’s markup of its subcommittee allocations on Thursday. The committee will also consider the Agriculture, Legislative Branch and Military Construction-VA bills Thursday, all of which skipped formal subcommittee markups in that chamber.

Despite the emergency adds deal, Collins and other Senate GOP appropriators said they planned to oppose the basic subcommittee allocations, commonly known as 302(b)s. Those are the numbers that add up to the topline defense and nondefense statutory caps in the debt ceiling law, before additions such as the emergency-designated funding.

The Defense spending bill is set to receive $2 billion below President Joe Biden’s budget request in its subcommittee allocation, Collins said, though that figure will be boosted by this emergency spending. 

“There’s no way that I can support the 302(b)s,” she said, while adding “I do not see that as an insurmountable roadblock. We will proceed forward.” 

Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark., said he would also oppose the 302(b)s as they were set by the Democrats and did not reflect Republican priorities. But he said he believed the committee would advance his bill, a less controversial measure, and Collins said she is hopeful the committee will favorably report the first three bills Thursday.

For months, Senate Republicans have been pushing for a boost for defense spending, while Senate Democrats have said they need a commensurate increase for nondefense programs. In divvying up the added emergency funds this way, Murray has offered an olive branch to Republicans who argue global conflicts demand a bigger funding allotment for the Pentagon and other security-related agencies while still securing a significant nondefense boost.

This year’s split is roughly in line with last year’s emergency spending agreement between Murray and Collins, which provided a total of nearly $14 billion, $8 billion of which went to the Defense bill.

[Murray, Collins strike deal on fiscal 2024 emergency funds]

But that emergency spending did not make it into the final fiscal 2024 packages, as House Republicans pushed to cap overall spending at the levels agreed to in the debt limit deal. The same dynamic is playing out this year, and House Republicans are almost certain to oppose adding $34.5 billion in emergency spending, as they did last year with a lesser amount.

Still, for some Republicans the added defense spending may prove tempting, even at the price of more money for domestic programs and foreign assistance.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.