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“It’s going to be a long winter”: Congress slumbers funding the government

“I think we’ll be here in December trying to fund the government,” said Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the Chamber’s top Republican appropriator. “Something can always happen. But at the moment there is no movement – or maybe focus. “

Undoubtedly, the focus in Washington right now is on talks on an infrastructure bill. Before that, it was the $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief package. This single-track strategy is Biden’s style, and government funding has remained out of bounds, as evidenced by the new president’s record-breaking delay in submitting his budget proposal to Congress last month.

“It’s a different time than we’ve ever seen before. Under normal circumstances, we would have everything locked now, ”said Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senate Chair of Funding Allocations.

Congressional leaders have begun to speak informally about spending levels for the coming fiscal year, Leahy said, forecasting the Senate’s mark-ups on finance bills as early as July. The earmarking revival is underway on both sides of the Capitol. And House leaders envision an even faster schedule to get their own versions of the dozen expense bills through committee and into the hallway before the scheduled August break.

However, all of these summer actions are largely meaningless without a bipartisan agreement on the two main government funding lines: military spending and money for non-defense purposes. But this debate has hardly started.

“We always talk and our employees talk. But for the crystallizing engagement – you know, really seriously – the answer should be no at this point, ”Shelby said. “It will be a long winter”

It will not be easy for Biden and the leaders of the narrowly divided Congress to reach a funding agreement. Aside from the fact that at least 10 Senate Republicans must have an endgame spending arrangement on board, Democrats themselves disagree on how much to spend on the military.

While progressives like Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Insist on a cut in the Pentagon’s budget, Biden has called for an increase in annual defense spending of around 2 percent. And other Democrats are looking for a bigger military boost.

Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chairman of the Upper Chamber’s Defense Spending Committee, said he was “not happy” that Biden published his budget proposal in late May, months after the normal deadline and weeks later than any other president in front.

“We’re still analyzing what’s in the budget,” said Tester. “There will be a lot of talk about top lines on defense, top lines on non-defense, and all that.”

The president’s budget proposal was so late that top lawmakers in his own party began publicly punishing the White House earlier this spring.

“I am deeply concerned that the Biden government is dragging its feet to get us the bloody budget,” said House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) In April. “The White House itself is not doing the work it should be doing now.”

Smith then warned that the federal government would be “guaranteed” a rolling resolution to carry out current spending beyond the October 1 deadline if the president does not send his full budget proposal to Congress by mid to late May. Biden’s inquiry then debuted on May 28th.

“We don’t have time for our work,” complained the Bundeswehr chairman.

Acting White House budget director Shalanda Young last week defied complaints from senators that the Biden administration has so far ignored important steps in funding the government, saying, “The budget has always been the beginning of a process.” Young, a Former top advisor to the House Budgets Committee before Biden appointed her to lead the OMB, added that it is up to the House and Senate to set funding according to the President’s initial instructions and “it must be a bipartisan process” .

Legislators from both parties claim it will take more White House approval to eventually get to a funding deal that can pass both houses and earn Biden’s signature.

“Get the stakeholders – the chairs of the relevant committees and senior members – and bring them to a room with the White House. And hit a number, “said Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.).

The last time Congress set caps on total government spending, House Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and then Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin negotiated tenaciously for weeks before signing a two-year deal in 2019 that included total spending on military and non-defense.

Without a similar deal this year, the House of Representatives is expected to pass spending bills next month that is far less than the defense spending that Senate Republicans would support, and far the sums on non-defense spending that the Upper Chamber’s GOP lawmakers would approve exceed. This prospect only underscores the inevitability of a dead end.

“What I am asking is not to have a house number that no one will accept,” said Graham. “It’s only after you’ve seen this film 100 times that you don’t want a better ending? We are heading for a CR, which is a disaster for the military. It’s just a shitty way of running the government. Give me numbers. “

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