President Joe Biden and top Democrats on Capitol Hill have yet to begin a bipartisan deal on the two main buckets of government funding. By having that awkward “topline” conversation, you avoid more fighting within the Democratic caucus, as the party fights separately over the cost of Biden’s multibillion-dollar policy ambitions. However, as long as the stall tactics persist, Republicans say a major credit deal will remain elusive.
“If Democrats want bills with full-year credits, they need to abandon their go-it-alone strategy and come to the table to negotiate,” Shelby said in a statement Monday. “We need a top-line agreement that does not jeopardize our nation’s defenses and a willingness to set aside partisan politics. Only then will we be able to prepare financial statements for the American people.”
The next closing deadline has been pushed back to December 3, when the Treasury Department is also expected to meet its borrowing limit to continue paying government bills on time. In the past, action on the debt cap has often led to negotiations on the kind of overarching budget deal Republicans are seeking, such as then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s 2019 deal with Congressional Democrats to increase spending and lifting the debt ceiling.
But not this year.
Assistants on both sides of the aisle warn that failure to agree annual spending bills will likely result in a one-year emergency measure, fixing current government funding for a total of 12 months and denying any significant budget increase to agencies.
Top Republicans have been noticing the irony for months. Congress last signed a funding deal with the government in December 2020, while President Donald Trump was still in office. Those levels could live on if lawmakers can’t strike a new deal. And any compromise on credits ultimately requires the support of at least 10 GOP senators.
“Now you have the presidency and the House and the Senate. And the best thing you can do is Donald Trump’s latest budget?” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) has said about the prospect of a full year stopgap. “I think their side would explode.”
Republicans on the Senate spending panel last month publicly issued their ultimatum on the financing negotiations. Until the two sides reach a bipartisan budget deal, they said, GOP senators will block action against any spending bills Democrats try to promote.
The 5 percent increase in the Pentagon budget proposed by the Senate Democrats is consistent with what the House Democrats and Republicans have approved in their version of the annual defense policy legislation, and far more than the 1.7 increase. percent that Biden submitted in his fiscal 2022 budget filing.
The 13 percent increase for non-defense programs is also less than the 16 percent increase proposed by the White House. But Democrats are still looking for some of the president’s key domestic priorities, including the creation of a new agency within the National Institutes of Health that would focus on researching diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Shelby knocked Democrats down for forgoing long-standing funding language that bans federal money from being used to perform abortions, proposes to save money for border patrol activities and spend billions of dollars on climate change mitigation efforts.
Moderate Democrats are unlikely to support the 13 percent increase for non-defense programs, while progressive Democrats like Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) insist on cutting the military budget by as much as 10 percent.
Democratic leaders this year have avoided provoking conflict among themselves over funding levels, focusing instead on the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package Biden signed in March and then on the “two-track” effort to complete the infrastructure deal. along with the social spending plan that they are. still struggling to act. Amid that policy focus, Biden filed his budget request in late May, weeks after the deadline and later than any president has ever sent the tax wish list to Congress.
Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.