WASHINGTON — President Biden’s first annual budget proposal calls for a surge in federal spending on climate change, civil rights, IRS tax collections and the worsening border crisis on top of his massive just-passed stimulus package and pending $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill.
The budget proposal calls for a a 16 percent increase in domestic spending and a 1.7 percent increase in Pentagon spending in fiscal 2022, according to a letter to Congress from acting White House budget director Shalanda Young.
The combined price tag tops $1.5 trillion for discretionary spending, which doesn’t include obligatory spending on entitlements like Social Security or interest on the national debt.
“Together, America has a chance not simply to go back to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn struck, but to begin building a better, stronger, more secure, more inclusive America,” Young wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
Passing the president’s plan as written through Congress is typically a long shot. Recent history and guaranteed conflicts with Republicans are likely to force lawmakers to put discretionary accounts on autopilot for months after the Sept. 30 expiration of the budget year.
At stake is roughly one-third of the huge federal budget that is passed by Congress each year, funding the military, domestic Cabinet department operations, foreign policy and homeland security. The rest of the budget involves so-called mandatory programs that are locked in and basically run on autopilot, chiefly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The plan also details how the Biden administration will try to deal with the its US border crisis. It includes $861 million to invest in Central America to address the forces driving people to migrate to the United States.
An additional $345 million would go to immigration services to resolve delays in years-long naturalization and asylum cases. The budget for the Executive Office of Immigration Review would jump 21 percent to $891 million in order to hire 100 new immigration judges and support teams to reduce the existing backlogs.
Other specific budget proposals include putting $2.1 billion toward the Justice Department to address “the gun violence public health crisis plaguing communities across the Nation,” according to a fact sheet. That would be an increase of $232 million from 2021.
It also seeks a $1 billion boost to the Internal Revenue Service — for a total $13.2 billion — over the 2021 level of funding to help the tax collecting agency ramp up its efforts to boost enforcement from taxpayers who owe money to the feds.
Another $209 million — an increase of $33 million — is earmarked for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Biden wants to increase the Education Department’s budget by a massive 40.8% to $102.8 billion, which includes an additional $20 billion in grants for high-poverty schools.
The Department of Health Human Services would get a 23.1 percent boost to $133.7 billion. There would be additional funds to combat opioid addiction and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose mission took on new urgency in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. The administration is also asking for $6.5 billion to establish a biomedical research agency to address cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
The Biden pitch “includes major new climate change investments … across nearly every agency to: restore the critical capacity needed to carry out their core functions and to take a whole-of-government approach to tackling climate change; secure environmental justice for communities that have been left behind through the largest direct investment in environmental justice in history; and help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change,” the White House said.
Biden is seeking a $14 billion increase across government agencies to address climate change. Housing and Urban Development would get a 15.1% increase to $68.7 billion, primarily to provide housing vouchers for an additional 200,000 families. The administration also seeks more money for civil rights enforcement addressing gun violence as a public health epidemic.
Presidential budget proposals rarely are adopted as offered and instead are commonly viewed as messaging opportunities to highlight policy preferences. Due to a 60 vote supermajority required for most bills in the Senate, spending packages are typically the results of belabored bipartisan compromise.
Biden last month rammed through Congress without any Republcian support a more than $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill that conservatives called wasteful.
That legislation passed under special budget reconciliation rules that allowed for a bare majority in the Senate. Democrats are currently assembling a more than $2 trillion infrastructure bill — paid for by proposed tax hikes — that’s also likely to be processed via the budget reconciliation process.
–with Associated Press