BUDGET BRIEFING: Spending Talks Progress; Rider Debate Unsolved


January 14, 2022 7:00 am

Lawmakers inched toward a government funding deal yesterday, aiming to reach agreement by the Feb. 18 shutdown deadline, though they’ve struggled with contentious policy debates that include federal funding for abortion.

The top House and Senate appropriators from each party talked for an hour yesterday, leaving without a deal. Republicans continue to demand that Democrats set aside new policy riders and include longstanding measures such as the Hyde amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion, before discussing funding levels. Democrats say they should start with funding levels before negotiating policy riders. That months-old disagreement wasn’t settled yesterday, though negotiators said the conversation was productive.

“The four of us had constructive talks on where we go and how we get there, and how we start. And we haven’t worked that out yet,” Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters. “But we’re going to continue to talk and meet.”

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called it a “good meeting” and said she still hopes to pass an omnibus 12-bill spending package by Feb. 18.

Shelby, DeLauro, Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and House Appropriations ranking member Kay Granger (R-Texas) are talking about holding future meetings but haven’t settled on when, DeLauro said.

Leahy called the meeting “a worthwhile discussion.”

Shelby followed up by talking to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over the phone about appropriations negotiations, said Blair Taylor, Shelby’s spokeswoman.

Shelby told reporters Republicans still could accept a stopgap measure for the rest of fiscal 2022 if Democrats don’t agree to stick to legacy policy riders. “If we don’t do it, if they want to stay there, we’re just going to get a CR,” Shelby told reporters yesterday. “And then we keep the legacy riders. We keep everything.”

Lawmakers have had initial discussions on attaching other measures to a spending package, including disaster aid for areas hit by tornadoes in December, Shelby said Tuesday. Discussions of a coronavirus response measure have “bubbled up, but it’s not crystallized yet,” he added.

Appropriations Ready With or Without BBB, Kaptur Says: The chairs of the House Appropriations subcommittees met Wednesday to update each other on how their work is going, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), chair of the Energy and Water Subcommittee, said ahead of the meeting. While Democrats’ main tax and spending bill has gotten the spotlight, lawmakers should understand that regular appropriations bills could also address some priorities, including funds for environmental programs, Kaptur said.

“Build Back Better isn’t ready yet. We are, and we need to get that done,” Kaptur said.

“Minibus” spending packages are a possible, in addition to a full, 12-bill omnibus, Kaptur said, though it’s not clear how the measures would be assembled. The Energy and Water would likely be “one of the trains pulling the others forward,” because it’s large and touches on important energy and climate provisions, Kaptur said.