by Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent | October 18
Senate Democrats, facing a December deadline to pass fiscal 2022 spending bills, unveiled the legislation on Monday, immediately causing uproar among GOP lawmakers.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy released nine of the 12 bills that fund the federal government. None of the measures included GOP input.
The bills cut “core border security” funding, allow taxpayer funding for abortion, and lift domestic spending by 14%, among many other provisions Republicans are likely to oppose unanimously.
“Chairman Leahy’s decision to unilaterally unveil partisan spending bills is a significant step in the wrong direction,” said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the panel. “This one-sided process has resulted in bills that spend in excess of the Democrats’ own budget resolution and fails to give equal consideration to our nation’s defense. Their bills are filled with poison pills and problematic authorizing provisions, and they remove important legacy riders on topics like terrorism, abortion, and immigration that for years have enjoyed broad support on both sides of the aisle.”
Democrats have about seven weeks to craft a compromise with Republicans that will keep the federal government operating past a Dec. 3 deadline, when a stopgap funding measure expires.
The legislation requires 60 Senate votes to advance, which means it will need the backing of all Democrats and at least 10 Republicans. In their current form, the bills face a likely filibuster.
Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, suggested Republicans have been unwilling to engage in bipartisan negotiations and called on GOP lawmakers to renew talks in order to meet the December deadline.
Leahy contends domestic spending in his measure increases by 13%, compared to a 5% increase for defense spending.
“These bills make important investments in our nation’s infrastructure, our environment, and the middle class, including historic increases to promote affordable housing, educate our nation’s children, combat climate change, and improve healthcare,” Leahy said.
The bill advances important policy changes liberal Democrats have long sought, including the elimination of the Hyde Amendment, which for decades has prohibited federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion, and adds other language allowing foreign aid to cover abortion services abroad.
The measure also fulfills a promise made by Democrats to cease construction of the southern border wall that former President Donald Trump championed as the best way to boost security along the Mexico border.
The legislation returns $2 billion in border wall funding to the Treasury to halt new construction and transfers additional money to enable the removal of the border wall on public land.
The measure also cuts detention capacity at facilities operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which Republicans said will hobble enforcement and the ability to remove people living here illegally.
Democrats will have to negotiate a compromise with the GOP ahead of Dec. 3 in order to win at least 10 GOP votes to extend government funding.
The abortion language and significant increase in domestic spending are nonstarters with GOP lawmakers, while the cut in border security funding coincides with thousands of illegal immigrants pouring over the southern border, many of them streaming past the border wall gaps the wall would have closed off.
Leahy said the rescinded wall funding will be repurposed “for smart border security technology and other capabilities to facilitate trade and travel, as well as for environmental remediation due to border-barrier construction.”
The legislation provides nearly $726 billion in defense spending. While it’s $10 billion more than President Joe Biden requested, it falls far short of the long-standing agreement that defense and domestic spending receive equal funding.
The measure allows the Biden administration to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay , Cuba, and transfer the prisoners to other facilities in the United States, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is charged in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Some of the increased domestic spending will go to the IRS, which would see a 14% budget increase.
Shelby warned that among the “poison pills” authored by Democrats is a provision ending a ban on the IRS issuing rules to regulate political groups, which was imposed after the Tea Party targeting scandal.