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Congress is already clashing on FY25 funding as House proposes big cuts

May 17, 2024   Government Executive

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House Republicans are proposing an average of 6% discretionary spending cuts to non-defense agencies for fiscal 2025, putting it on a collision course with the Democratic-led Senate that is seeking to avoid such reductions.


Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee released their top-line spending levels for each of the 12 annual funding bills Congress must pass each year, which included cuts for some agencies as high as 11%.


The appropriators are putting aside parts of the two-year budget deal President Biden struck with House Republicans last year in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, saying they are instead sticking only to the spending levels detailed in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. In addition to that law, Biden and then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed to other mechanisms that would ultimately allow both defense and non-defense discretionary spending to increase by 1% in fiscal 2025.


“The bills written by [the House Appropriations] Committee will adhere to law set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act—with no side deals—and focus resources where they are needed most,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who chairs the panel. “Our FY25 process will reflect our commitment to strengthening our national defense, supporting the safety and security of the American people and reining in government to its core mission."


Under Cole’s proposals, which he said are subject to change pending new evaluations from the Congressional Budget Office, the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Treasury, State and related agencies would all receive cuts between 10% and 11%. The Pentagon would receive a 1% boost, while the Homeland Security Department would receive a bump above President Biden’s request and the Veterans Affairs Department would see its request met. The appropriations committee is set to begin marking up its fiscal 2025 bills next week.


Democrats immediately decried the announcement, saying House Republicans were flouting the deal they struck last year and forcing unnecessary harm to agencies and their constituencies. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said Republicans were leading Congress down the same “messy, chaotic, harmful and embarrassing” road it followed when attempting to keep the government open for fiscal 2024.


“This is the exact same process we saw play out last year,” DeLauro said. “A process where House Republicans, held hostage by their most extreme members, led us from one shutdown threat to another.”


She added Democrats were ready to negotiate, but said Congress must meet its prior agreement and ensure defense and non-defense funding both see increases of at least 1%.


Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, has said Democrats will not accept any spending bills that do not provide parity in the funding boosts to defense and non-defense accounts. She noted many Republicans have suggested the Pentagon will require a larger-than-1% bump and said that must be accompanied by similar increases for domestic agencies.


Murray and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the top Republican on the panel, worked closely in drafting bills last year and their proposals won broad bipartisan support in the committee. This year, however, could bring a bumpier path. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has criticized Biden’s proposed funding for defense as insufficient and rejected Murray’s framework.


“The defense spending needs to reflect the needs of our country, which clearly argues against having an arbitrary line that doesn't spend more on defense than domestic,” McConnell told reporters last week. “So I certainly disagree with that and we're going to have a vigorous discussion about it.”


Following Cole’s announcement in the House, Murray once again pledged to write appropriations bills that “include the full resources” of the Biden-McCarthy budget deal that avoid “devastating cuts.”


“Let’s not repeat the mistakes of last year, which only got us months of chaos and delay,” Murray said. “We cannot shortchange our country’s future—we’ve got to invest in it, and at a minimum, that starts with providing the full funding for domestic programs that was agreed to last year.”


She emphasized that was only a starting point, calling the current caps inadequate. Congress could opt to punt the drafting of funding bills until after the upcoming presidential election, as it did in 2020. Current funding is set to expire at the end of September.