Biden Asks for $1.5 Trillion in 1st Budget Request, Including 16 Percent Domestic Spending Boost

April 9, 2021 Updated: April 13, 2021

President Joe Biden on Friday asked Congress to authorize a $1.52 trillion federal spending plan for 2022, calling for a 16 percent increase in funding for non-defense domestic programs and a relatively flat 1.7 percent increase for defense.

Biden’s first discretionary spending request, detailed in a blueprint (pdf) from the White House’s acting budget chief, Shalanda Young, calls on Congress to provide $769 billion for non-defense programs and $753 billion in national defense funding for the upcoming fiscal year.

The request is a precursor to a bigger, annual budget proposal that will come later in spring and will cover mandatory spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare. Discretionary spending requests, which are subject to the appropriations process and require Congress to set a new funding level each year, can be a battleground for partisan wrangling that have in the past led to government shutdowns.

“Later this spring we will release the president’s full budget, which will present a unified, comprehensive plan to address the overlapping crises we face,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing Friday. She added that this will include the “big proposal” Biden has just introduced—referring to the $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan—as well as “other proposals that he will introduce between now and then.”

“Our country is confronting historic crises—the pandemic, an economic downturn, climate change, and a reckoning on racial justice,” Psaki said.

Jen Psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2021. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“At the same time, we’re inheriting a legacy of chronic underinvestment, in our view, in priorities that are vital to our long-term success and our ability to confront the challenges before us, so the president is focused on reversing this trend and reinvesting in the foundations of our strength,” she said, adding that the discretionary funding proposal “provides another opportunity to do that” and is an indication of the Biden administration’s priorities.

While the overall 8 percent boost in federal discretionary spending over 2021 levels signals that the White House is not inclined to pivot towards austerity, the specifics of the blueprint show that many of the agencies Biden wants to fund at higher levels are programs that former President Donald Trump sought to cut, while giving high priority to fighting climate change.

Biden is calling on Congress to spend an additional $14 billion towards climate change investments, including $1.7 billion to improve the energy efficiency of homes, schools, and federal buildings. Another $2 billion is slated for putting skilled labor—like welders and electricians—to work on the construction of various clean energy projects across the nation.

Biden
President Joe Biden speaks about jobs and the economy at the White House in Washington on April 7, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

His proposal also includes $600 million for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for 18 federal agencies “to provide an immediate, clear, and stable source of demand to help accelerate American industrial capacity to produce clean vehicles and components.” It also calls for $815 million to incorporate climate impacts into pre-disaster planning and projects. An additional $1.4 billion would also be sent to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, allowing more work on climate observation and forecasting.

Biden is also calling for $1.2 billion in climate aid for poor countries by resuming spending on the United Nations Green Climate Fund, and another $485 billion on other multilateral climate initiatives.

There’s also $861 million to combat the economic deprivation in Central America to help address the “root causes of irregular migration from Central America to the United States.” It also calls for over $10 billion in humanitarian assistance “to support vulnerable people abroad, including refugees and conflict victims.”

The discretionary request also includes $8.7 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency’s biggest budget boost in nearly two decades. Another $6.5 billion is earmarked to launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) project, which is meant to “support research that enhances health, lengthens life, and reduces illness and disability.” There’s also $10.7 billion to help end the opioid epidemic—$3.9 billion over the 2021 level—and $670 in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

Biden’s proposal also calls for $1.6 billion for community mental health services, $1 billion for Department of Justice (DOJ) Violence Against Women Act of 1994 programs, and $2.1 billion to combat gun-related violence.

The request also contains a $36.5 billion investment in Title I grants—a $20 billion increase from the 2021 enacted level—providing historically under-resourced schools with more funding. Nearly $20 billion is set aside for expanded access to affordable early child care and learning, $15.5 billion for support for children with disabilities.

Biden is calling for $30.4 billion for housing assistance in the form of housing choice vouchers, and $500 million in homeless assistance grants to help prevent and reduce homelessness.

The proposal seeks $625 million for a new competitive grant program for passenger rail and $2.7 billion for Amtrak—a 35 percent increase—in contrast to Trump, who sought to reduce Amtrak funding.

Other proposed increases track long-held Democrat priorities, including criminal justice and police reform, greater worker protections, boosting state unemployment insurance programs, reducing emissions, and more money for the IRS to crack down on tax avoidance.

The expansive proposal may face an uphill battle on Capitol Hill, however, as Democrats have narrow congressional majorities and, since the funding proposal cannot be advanced via budget reconciliation, they must win over at least ten Senate Republicans, who maintain filibuster power in the upper chamber.

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