The Senate continued to debate how to address voting rights including how to deal with the Senate filibuster while the House focused some attention on the appropriations for the current fiscal year, FY 2022.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) maneuvered to bring a version of voting rights to the floor for debate by using a previously passed House bill to get by an initial filibuster but ultimately the Senate will have to deal with the required 60 vote threshold or change the rules.

While the Senate debated rules a few committees in the House dealt with the existing appropriations and how the existing continuing resolution will affect this year’s spending.

Many members of Congress but especially Republicans would like to see bigger increases in the Defense budget, and they won’t get those increases if Congress adopts a year-long CR.  Last week House members heard about how the current CR will not only freeze in place current funding levels to match 2021 totals but that the CR is keeping in place funding for Defense Department programs that may not exist.  For the Pentagon FY 2021 spending is $8 billion below what they requested (and much lower than what some in Congress want) but the $8 billion shortfall is closer to $24 billion when lost purchasing power and “misalignment” is considered.  One example of misalignment is $3 billion for Afghanistan which is not now needed.

Some Republican appropriators say Democrats are using the Pentagon as leverage and argue that they would like to see lower spending levels in other areas and the removal of various “riders” or language directing the Administration to take or not take certain actions on range of controversial issues.

Thursday bought some positive news as the four leaders on appropriations met and discussed next steps and after the meeting there were some positive comments from the leaders: Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX).

The current continuing resolution (CR) runs out on February 18, 2022.  As a result, the President’s State of the Union will not take place at the end of January.  The White House announced that the State of the Union will be given on Tuesday March 1, 2022.  Although an announcement has not been made, the release of the proposed federal budget will not come in the first week of February, as required.  Many in Washington expect it will be released the week after the State of the Union.  Right now, writing a budget is extremely difficult when you don’t know what existing spending levels will be.

A CR would merely carry over 2021 funding levels into FY 2022. Just as concerning for advocates, including CWLA, a year-long CR might encourage an effort to impose a CR for FY 2023.  That would mean frozen spending levels for three years.

The Defense Authorization, which is a separate annual bill to go along with the Defense Appropriations bill, did get bipartisan agreement and it raises the authorization to a proposed spending level of $740 billion up from $715 billion.  The $715 billion is what the Biden Administration had requested.  The authorization has been signed but an authorization still requires a separate appropriation.

A final FY 2022 deal would likely mean a roll-back in some of the domestic spending but at least some of the significant increases adopted by the House, especially for the Labor-HHS-Education bill could survive.