BUDGET BRIEFING: Key Lawmakers Expect Covid-19 Supplemental


January 12, 2022 7:01 am

Key lawmakers expect a White House request for a spending measure to support the response to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, though President Joe Biden has yet to send a proposal.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday he expects Biden to soon request “substantial sums” through a supplemental appropriations bill to combat the coronavirus, possibly including foreign aid. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, also said there’d been discussion about the possibility of a supplemental request.

Lawmakers face a Feb. 18 deadline to fund the government, which could serve as a vehicle for other add-ons, such as a coronavirus bill or a disaster aid measure for areas hit by tornadoes last month.

The White House has yet to send a request, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped a question Monday on if a request was coming, telling reporters the administration has “been in constant conversation with leaders and with the Hill and members about what may be needed.”

Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters yesterday he would have questions for the administration on the disbursement of coronavirus funds.

“We are going to ask hard questions about where the money has been spent,” Shelby told reporters.

Shelby said the issue of a coronavirus spending bill has “bubbled up, but it’s not crystallized yet.”

Disaster relief measures, particularly for areas in western Kentucky hit by a tornado, could be attached to a spending measure, Shelby said.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, said he hadn’t heard of a forthcoming coronavirus funding request, but that there may be additional measures attached to a funding deal, if lawmakers reach one. Cole said in December he’d expect some bipartisan support for a coronavirus bill if the White House requests one.

“The prevailing Republican view right now is that there’s probably enough money to take care of it,” Cole said yesterday on a possible coronavirus supplemental. “But if we get to a deal, I would expect other things, anything from disaster relief to other things attached to it. So it may be out there, but I have not heard anything specific.”

Congressional Agenda Webinar

Join Bloomberg Government’s legislative analysts today at 11 a.m. for a deep dive into the policy areas, spending fights, and other activity to watch on Capitol Hill this year.

The analysts will discuss Democrats’ social spending package, fiscal 2022 spending negotiations, and legislation to address U.S. competition with China.

More Budget & Appropriations News

Military Warns Stopgap Would Squander Funds: The new U.S. Space Force would have to curtail space launches and the Marines would have to delay the arrival of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. These are a few of the scenarios that military leaders plan to describe to House lawmakers today as they press to avoid funding the Pentagon at last year’s levels for the rest of the fiscal 2022.

Under a full year of stopgap funding, the Navy also would lack sufficient resources for the first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. The Air Force would lose $3.5 billion in buying power. The Army would have $9.2 billion in “misaligned” funds.

Military service chiefs are poised to tell the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee that at least $26 billion could be wasted by not being allocated as planned in 2022, according to a Bloomberg Government tally from the prepared testimonies. All factions of the U.S. defense apparatus would operate at last year’s levels, which would put a stop to any additional funds or prevent the start of new programs.

  • The Defense Department’s annual budget will steadily increase over the next decade to reach $787 billion in 2031, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The costs are measured in 2022 dollars and would be 10% more than the amount proposed by the Biden administration for the fiscal 2022 budget, CBO said in report released yesterday.

Capitol Police Hiring, Fire Code Among CR Drawbacks: Police hiring, fires in the Capitol, and the Cannon House Office Building renovations are among the top concerns for Capitol Hill officials if lawmakers rely on further stopgap funding measures in fiscal 2022, they told lawmakers yesterday.

The U.S. Capitol Police will look to hire 288 new recruit officers in fiscal 2023, as the agency seeks to address a staffing shortage, Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told lawmakers at a House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing yesterday.

The Capitol Police are 440 to 450 officers “below where we need to be” Manger told lawmakers yesterday. Leaders will “have to nearly double the number of agents” who investigate threats against members, he said.

“We are investigating threats against Congress but I will tell you we’re barely keeping our head above water for those investigations,” Manger told lawmakers.

There were nearly 9,000 threats against members of Congress over the last year, roughly double the total from the previous year, Major General William J. Walker, sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. House of Representatives, told members. Those range from comments that were truly “menacing, or just somebody saying something reckless on the Internet or social media.”

A continuing resolution would put off needed funding increases for a Capitol sprinkler system “so that we actually have a fire-code approved building,” Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton told members.

Cannon office building renovations are a major concern, Blanton said, because officials “need to have money this summer in order to award the next phase of the Cannon project.” A delay would mean officials would “be able to complete the project within the two-year timeframe that is required for each phase of the project,” Blanton said.