Congress finally passed a sweeping $ 1.5 trillion spending omnibus package this week, capping off months of bruising negotiations and partisan fights over how to fund the government through fiscal year 2022.
Spending negotiations were laced with drama up until the House first unveiled the 2,000-plus page package at 1:30 am Wednesday, and well throughout its speedy track to passage in both chambers less than two days later, with members on both sides lamenting the lack of time they had to comb through the lengthy text.
The massive spending plan now heads to President BidenJoe BidenTop Hispanic lawmaker urges Biden to expedite reunification of Ukrainians in US Democrats plot strategy to defy expectations, limit midterm losses On The Money – US suspending normal trade with Russia MORE‘s desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law next week.
Here are how five key spending battles ended up playing out in the sprawling package.
Defense vs nondefense
One of the biggest battles over the bill was over how much money defense and non-defense spending would get.
Republicans and Democrats were at a stalemate for months as GOP leaders demanded equal levels of growth in the two areas.
In the end, Democrats lauded a 6.7 percent increase to nondefense discretionary spending, which they say is the biggest increase in four years.
The GOP touted a $ 42 billion increase for defense spending. They said the deal achieves dollar-for-dollar parity for defense and nondefense increases, as well as an 11 percent increase from the previous fiscal year for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Republican leaders say the outcome is a check on ambitious spending plans from Democrats, though conservative GOP lawmakers are split on how many concessions Democrats ended up making.
“Only if you think that going from like asking for 15 percent increases down to seven or eight is a big concession. And historically, we’ve never done more than two or three recently, ”said Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunSenate averts shutdown, passes .6B in Ukraine aid Senate gets deal for quick vote on funding, Ukraine aid GOP demands delay vote on spending, Ukraine aid MORE (R-Ind.), A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Billions of dollars in COVID-19 funding were scrubbed from the package hours after its unveiling on Wednesday after a revolt from House Democrats frustrated over plans to pull the money from relief already allocated to states.
More than $ 15 billion in supplemental funds were included in an earlier version of the package, after the White House last week called on lawmakers to authorize $ 22.5 billion to bolster federal coronavirus efforts. But House Democrats were furious with language to offset the funding by pulling previously allocated funds from states that had not yet been spent.
“This deal was cut behind closed doors. Members found out this morning, this is completely unacceptable, ”Rep. Angie CraigAngela (Angie) CraigHouse passes sweeping .5 trillion omnibus spending bill Minnesota court makes changes to House Democrat’s district Rep. Angie Craig defends Minnesota House seat in race clouded by legal confusion MORE (D-Minn.), Who said her state was among the dozens that would be impacted by the plans, told reporters after leaving Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats plot strategy to defy expectations, limit midterm losses On The Money – US suspending normal trade with Russia Photos of the Week: Ketanji Brown-Jackson and Sen. Booker, ‘Zelensky Way’ and many sheep MORE‘s (D-Calif.) office ahead of the omnibus vote on Wednesday.
The GOP had demanded the offset, but the Democratic resistance to that push threatened the bill’s passage.
House leaders confirmed the funding was eventually dropped from the package later Wednesday, paving a way for passage in the lower chamber. Leaders are expected to set up a vote on another COVID-19 funding measure without the offsets in the lower chamber in the days ahead. But its passage in the Senate is far from certain.
Democrats were unsuccessful in efforts to keep controversial legacy riders with restrictions in areas like abortion and marijuana out of the omnibus, as Republicans drew red lines around the so-called nonstarters in spending talks.
The Hyde Amendment was among the best-known riders to be reinstalled in the appropriations legislation after Democrats previously omitted the provision last year.
The amendment prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions in most cases. It has been included in annual appropriations bills since it was introduced by then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) In the 1970s.
Republican appropriators also lauded the package’s inclusion of the Weldon amendment, a rider Democrats also previously sought to drop that bars entities that do not want to provide abortion care from being denied federal dollars.
Another years-old provision, known as the Harris Rider, which bars the legalization of recreational marijuana sales in the nation’s capital, also made its way back into the bill, despite Democratic efforts to nix it from funding legislation. Washington, DC voted to legalize marijuana for adult use in 2014.
Despite the provision’s impact on marijuana business in DC, the lesser-known rider appeared to fall through the cracks in spending negotiations, with several members saying in recent days that they were either not following the status of the rider or unaware of its existence.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Congress tied a bow on a legislative push to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as part of the omnibus, following tough negotiations between members on both sides of the aisle on gun-related provisions.
A bipartisan group of senators first announced a deal on a framework for VAWA reauthorization late last year, nearly a decade after it was last reauthorized.
At the time, the senators announced the plan as an effort to bolster domestic violence response at multiple levels of government, as well as efforts to combat dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
But it also outlined a key provision that advocates call the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by prohibiting individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence against a dating partner from possessing or purchasing firearms or ammunition.
The move marked the latest attempt by lawmakers to go after the loophole in recent years, after previous efforts were attacked by gun rights groups and Republicans as unnecessary “gun control,” though proponents have said it would save lives.
However, the provision was later dropped from the legislation when lawmakers behind the effort rolled out the bill last month – a move senators say was made to win necessary GOP support.
Senators say there was also last-minute drama related to the VAWA plan that held up passage of the omnibus on Thursday night.
Border wall funding
A Democratic-led effort to rescind $ 1.9 billion previously allocated for border barrier funds under the Trump administration also failed after staunch opposition from Republicans.
Democrats had wanted to repurpose the funding for border security technology, IT modernization efforts and environmental mitigation efforts, among other proposals. But in remarks to The Hill this week, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chair Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic effort to rescind border wall funds fails Democrats, Republicans struggle to compromise on border, immigration funds Lawmakers reach .5T deal on government funding package MORE (D-Conn.) Said the funding secured in his panel for fiscal 2022 will still fund the party’s proposed plans.
“In the end, our allocation was big enough that we did not need to use that old border wall funding for our new priorities,” Murphy said. “We got an allocation that was big enough to be able to fund the new priorities.”
The development comes after border wall funding emerged as a sticking point in spending talks, with both sides having a hard time agreeing on a path forward on the matter.
Murphy said some of the previously allocated border wall funds that were not rescinded will go toward tying up loose ends on parts of the construction that could pose hazards. But he added that any wall funds leftover “will continue to be an unspent balance.”