House Democrats are looking to increase federal spending by about $250 billion next year — a boost that would exceed budget levels agreed to in a bipartisan deal reached last year with Republicans and the Trump administration.
The Democratic spending bills introduced by House appropriators this week would bring discretionary spending to more than $1.6 trillion, a 16% increase over current levels, The Hill’s Niv Elis reports.
Democrats say the pandemic has raised the need for additional funding, which Elis says would cover areas ranging from rural broadband and transportation infrastructure to health care and global coronavirus relief. Republicans counter that the Democratic proposal will make it harder to reach agreement with the Senate on 2021 spending levels.
“In any other year, a quarter-trillion dollars tacked onto a series of regular spending bills would be unheard of,” Elis writes. “But the economic emergency caused by the pandemic has turned it into a rounding error, as Congress has approved trillions of dollars to fight COVID-19, including a record $2.2 trillion for the CARES Act in March. … Even budget hawks have acknowledged that deficit spending is needed in times like these, with austerity reserved for boom times.”
Still, Marc Goldwein, head of policy for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, warned that the pandemic shouldn’t be used as an excuse for non-emergency spending. “The emergency designation is there for emergencies, which means things that are urgent, unforeseen and temporary,” Goldwein told The Hill. “The question that I would ask is if the broadband, the housing, is that really in light of the coronavirus emergency? It’s not appropriate to use an emergency situation for building roads.”
The bottom line: The Democratic proposal may raise the chances that the annual appropriations process gets bogged down in partisan fights. “Any long-term standoff between congressional Democrats and Republicans would just increase the odds of Congress kicking the can down the road with a continuing resolution, dealing with spending legislation after the November elections, perhaps even into January,” Elis writes.