D.C. spending standoff ahead as U.S. House Republicans demand $130 billion in cuts
The U.S. Capitol on March 21, 2023. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans outlined Wednesday how they would cut $130 billion from the dozen annual government funding bills — producing a plan with significantly lower spending than the level both parties agreed to in the debt limit deal just two weeks ago.
The spending levels likely set up a stalemate later this year between the GOP House and Democratic Senate that could lead to a partial government shutdown.
Contentious policy riders added by Republicans — such as a ban on funding for the teaching or promotion of critical race theory and a proposal that would eliminate pharmacies’ ability to dispense the abortion pill after receiving a prescription — likely won’t make it into the final versions of spending bills, though they will add hurdles to the process.
Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger, a Texas Republican, said during the markup that Congress has “no choice but to reduce spending where we can.”
Granger also contended that the debt limit agreement set a ceiling, not a floor on government spending.
“The allocations before us reflect the change members on my side of the aisle want to see by returning spending to responsible levels,” Granger said.
“They also fulfill our commitment to focus our limited resources on the core responsibilities of the federal government — national security, veterans, and border security are our priorities,” Granger added.
Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the committee’s ranking member, said the change in spending levels shows Republicans “have no desire to govern in anything resembling a serious manner.”
“These Republican allocations, secretly leaked to the press before they were shared with members of this committee, are a complete affront, an abrogation of the deal your speaker just reached with the president of the United States,” DeLauro said.
“These allocations are either an attempt to appease the same reckless faction that would rather have us default than uphold our constitutional duty, or they are evidence that the same Republican members who voted for the debt deal no longer support it,” she added.
The Committee, in a sign of significant tension, abruptly adjourned Wednesday evening before voting to adopt the spending levels.
No reductions for defense
The funding levels apply to the discretionary spending in the dozen annual appropriations bills, which include about one-third of all federal spending.
The allocations would reduce funding across broad swaths of the federal government, with the more substantial cuts hitting the Financial Services, Interior-Environment and State-Foreign Operations bills. That means funding for everything from national parks to housing to climate initiatives could be hit.
Republicans aren’t proposing spending cuts for the Defense, Homeland Security or Military Construction-VA spending bills.
The total funding level is lower than the spending agreement Speaker Kevin McCarthy brokered during debt limit negotiations with the Biden administration.
That decision is expected to inflict headaches later in the year when the Republican House and Democratically controlled Senate negotiate conferenced bills that can pass both chambers.
That bipartisan spending agreement set defense discretionary spending at $886 billion and approved $704 billion for nondefense accounts during the fiscal year set to begin Oct. 1.
But conservative Republicans have pressed for what McCarthy promised them behind closed doors in order to secure the speaker’s gavel in January — last year’s spending levels.
The White House signaled Tuesday it’s not open to renegotiating the debt limit agreement.
“We made a deal, and we will uphold our end of this deal. And so they need to uphold theirs. And so I’ll just leave it there,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Senate Majority Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday he doesn’t expect the spending levels will “have much support in the Senate among Democrats or Republicans.”
Here’s a look at the broad plans by House Republicans on the Appropriations Committee for spending during fiscal 2024:
Agriculture: Republicans proposed $17.8 billion in discretionary spending for the bill that funds the Agriculture Department as well as the Food and Drug Administration. That’s a decrease from the $25.48 billion Congress approved for the current fiscal year.
Commerce-Justice-Science: The House bill for fiscal 2024 would provide $58.7 billion for the departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation. That’s a decrease from $83.85 billion in current funding.
Defense: House Republicans plan to give the Pentagon $826.4 billion during the upcoming fiscal year, an increase from $797.7 billion.
Energy-Water: The $52.4 billion in funding would mark a decrease from the enacted level of $54.65 billion. The bill funds the Energy Department as well as more than a dozen agencies, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Denali Commission, Great Lakes Authority, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Tennessee Valley Authority.
Financial Services and General Government: GOP lawmakers on the spending panel approved $11.3 billion for fiscal 2024, a major decrease from the current funding level of $27.7 billion.
The measure provides funds for the Treasury Department and the federal judiciary as well as dozens of other offices, including the Executive Office of the President, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Archives and Records Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Homeland Security: The annual funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as Customs and Border Protection, totals $62.8 billion in discretionary spending. That’s an increase from $60.7 billion in current funding.
Interior-Environment: House Republicans plan to appropriate $25.4 billion for the annual funding bill for the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, Indian Health Services, Smithsonian Institution and a couple dozen other federal programs. The proposed funding level would mark a big decrease from the current spending level of $40.45 billion.
Labor-Health and Human Services-Education: House Republicans proposed a cut to the funding level for the largest nondefense spending bill. The party’s allocation sets a $147.1 billion topline for the bill, compared to its current level of $209.9 billion in base discretionary funding. The measure includes funding for the departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Labor.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, National Labor Relations Board and Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission are among the smaller agencies funded within the bill.
Legislative Branch: The bill that funds congressional operations — including the U.S. Capitol Police, the Government Accountability Office, the Library of Congress and more — would get $6.8 billion under the House GOP proposal. That’s a decrease from the current funding level of $6.9 billion.
Military Construction-VA: House GOP appropriators will direct $155.7 billion in discretionary spending to the bill that covers the costs of the Veterans Affairs Department as well as military construction projects. The proposed spending level is an overall increase from the enacted level of $135.2 billion in discretionary funding.
State-Foreign Operations: The spending bill for the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, Peace Corps and several other programs would get $41.4 billion, a decrease from the $61.76 billion current funding level.
Transportation-HUD: Republicans on the Appropriations Committee approved spending $65.2 billion to fund the Housing and Urban Development and Transportation departments during the upcoming fiscal year. That represents a decrease from the current funding level of $90.96 billion.
The bill funds other smaller federal agencies as well, including the Federal Maritime Commission, National Transportation Safety Board and United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
The House Appropriations Committee will include more details about how much Republicans want to spend on specific departments, agencies and programs that make up each bill as the legislation moves through committee in the weeks ahead.
The legislation will likely change when the committee debates the bills and during House floor debate.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is taking a different approach to its fiscal 2024 funding process than colleagues across the Capitol.
Chair Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, plan to release and debate bipartisan bills later this month.
“We have to show there is a bipartisan vision to strengthen our nation’s competitiveness and security by investing in American leadership across the board and across the world — and a bipartisan will to get it done,” Murray and Collins said in a joint statement released in May. “We are determined to show that commitment exists through the Senate appropriations process.”
After the House and Senate each debate their dozen appropriations bills, they’ll head to conference later this year.
If Republicans and Democrats from both chambers agree on spending levels and policy during those closed-door meetings, the final bills will head back to the floors for votes before heading to President Joe Biden for his signature.
If they cannot agree by Oct. 1, they’ll need to pass a short-term funding patch or begin a partial government shutdown.
Congress needs to pass all of the spending bills before 2024, or a new provision from the debt limit deal will implement a 1% across the board cut until they become law.
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