Democrats unveiled the draft of their 2022 omnibus spending bill early Wednesday morning. The package, which carries a top-line price tag of $1.5 trillion, includes $730 billion in non-defense funding, the largest increase in non-defense funding in four years.
The bill, which maintains a roughly one-to-one parity between defense and non-defense spending—as has been demanded by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies—would avert a government shutdown set to begin late evening on Friday.
“I am so proud of this government funding legislation, which delivers transformative federal investments to help lower the cost of living for working families, create American jobs, and provide a lifeline for the vulnerable,” said House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in a statement.
“During this time of great uncertainty and change, we are tackling some of our nation’s biggest challenges, including making health care more affordable, confronting the climate crisis, and protecting our national security.”
Many House Republicans remained opposed to the legislation on Wednesday morning.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) put forward a motion to adjourn for the day without a vote on the bill, but the motion was handily defeated along bipartisan lines, with around 35 GOP members and all Democrats voting against the motion. The bill is expected to be debated and voted on by the House Wednesday afternoon.
Hice explained his reason for calling on the House to adjourn in a statement on Twitter condemning the rush to pass the bill.
“A massive late night bill drops and Democrats expect us to vote on it without having the time to vet it,” said Hice. “The system is broken.”
Non-Defense Spending Increased By $46 Billion
In the omnibus package, Democrats have tried to revive several key policies of President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) spending package.
Though far less ambitious than the BBB, the omnibus bill would increase non-defense spending by $46 billion in comparison to fiscal year 2021. The 6.7 percent increase in non-defense spending marks the largest increase in such expenditures in over four years.
The bill, said the Democrat-led House Appropriations Committee, would “help working families with the cost of living by expanding child care and early learning programs to serve more working families, investing in America’s high-poverty schools and students with disabilities, expanding access to homeownership, and bringing the promise of rural broadband to more communities.”
The bill would put $550 million toward the development of rural broadband, a priority that received a great deal of funding in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which passed the House and Senate by a bipartisan vote.
The omnibus bill would also “[foster] the green energy jobs of tomorrow.” The BBB placed a major emphasis on funding training for environmental and “green energy” positions, and would have provided around $550 billion to expand the government’s policies toward the alleged “climate crisis.”
The bill also grants the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) $200 million—an increase of $18 million above 2021—for “climate research” to “provide actionable climate information to inform Americans’ decisions about how to adapt to the changing climate.”
In total, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $24 billion. Of that total, $7.6 billion in funding, an increase of $313.4 million above the 2021 level, is set aside “to enable better scientific information about the Earth and its changing climate, as well as to further our understanding of our solar system and beyond.”
In addition, the omnibus bill would “support the vulnerable by meeting Americans’ basic needs, by strengthening nutrition assistance, funding more affordable housing, and addressing gender-based violence.”
For example, the bill would provide $6 billion to the Women, Infants, and Children welfare program, which provides funding for several major food essentials to eligible mothers.
The bill would also provide over $140.4 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program colloquially known as “food stamps.” This marks approximately a $26.4 billion increase in SNAP appropriations over 2021.
In the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which passed Congress along party lines in early 2021, Democrats further increased SNAP funding by $1.15 billion.
The bill also puts $26.9 billion toward funding for child nutrition programs, a $1.77 billion increase over 2021. In addition, the bill provides $45 million for the Summer EBT program, $30 million for school kitchen equipment grants, and $6 million for school breakfast expansion grants.
“As kids return to the classroom, this funding will support more than 5.2 billion school lunches and snacks,” the House Appropriations Committee said in a summary of the bill (pdf).
Defense Spending Increased By $32.5 Billion
The omnibus bill grants a $728.5 billion appropriation toward defense spending, an increase of $32.5 billion above 2021.
McConnell has long demanded that spending bills provide relative parity between defense and non-defense spending.
In the past, McConnell has said that for Republicans to accept any government funding bill, “Democrats will need to honor the longstanding bipartisan truce that provides parity for defense and non-defense spending growth.”
The bill put forward by Democrats early on Wednesday honors that agreement, providing defense spending with only $1.5 billion less than non-defense spending.
The omnibus package, said the House Appropriations Committee in their summary of the legislation, would “[protect] our national security, [preserve] our domestic advanced manufacturing base to support jobs and economic growth, and [invest] heavily in research and development.”
It also “promotes democracy by countering China with strong funding to protect a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
However, other programs funded by the bill are less obviously related to defense.
The omnibus bill, say Democrats, “Confronts the climate crisis with historic investments for clean energy and climate adaptation to protect facilities, readiness, and global security.”
It also “directs [the Department of Defense] to report on extremist activities.”
The DOD has pushed for such measures for some time. In a December 2021 Report on Countering Extremist Activity Within the Department of Defense, the DOD laid out information on its efforts “to address the threat posed by prohibited extremist activities” (pdf).
“The overwhelming majority of the men and women of the Department of Defense serve this country with honor and integrity. They respect the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We are grateful for that dedication,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in a December 2021 memorandum.
He added, “We owe the men and women of the Department of Defense an environment free of extremist activities, and we owe our country a military that reflects the founding values of our democracy.”
In 2020, the U.S. Army revised Army Command Policy (AR 600-20) to “address the use of social media to support extremist activities and provided guidance to commanders for addressing prohibited activity that crosses the line into misconduct.”
Thus, these efforts are nothing new for the Biden DOD, which has already emphasized efforts to root out “extremism.”
The omnibus bill is expected to go to a floor vote in the House late Wednesday afternoon following allotted time for debate. Democrats are likely to give the measure enough support to pass the House.
However, it may face steeper challenges in the Senate, where a supermajority is needed to pass legislation. The spending package, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, may be repugnant to Senate Republicans and fiscal moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), who have each warned against government spending that could accelerate inflation.
If the omnibus bill cannot win the support of 60 senators to pass the filibuster threshold, Democrats may be forced to push through another stopgap spending resolution in order to avert a government shutdown due to begin late on Friday.