Both parties claim wins in massive omnibus spending bill – JP
Senate Republicans claimed to have held nondefense funds outside of VA medical care to a below-inflation increase of 5.5 percent. But House Democrats used their own figure: a 9.3 percent, or $68 billion, increase for nondefense, including for veterans. While neither the percentage nor dollar increase matched the boost for defense, Democrats said the totals were larger than the previous year’s increase for domestic and foreign aid accounts.
The measure also would appropriate roughly $85 billion for Ukraine military and economic aid as well as money for victims of recent hurricanes that struck Florida and Puerto Rico, as well as other less recent calamities. That total figure roughly matches President Joe Biden’s supplemental requests, except lawmakers diverted $10 billion he sought for pandemic aid to beef up Ukraine and disaster relief, depriving the administration of new funds to deal with a winter COVID-19 surge.
During negotiations, the two sides tussled over the classification of veterans health care costs as Democrats aimed to make some existing funds mandatory to free up additional discretionary nondefense spending for other priorities. The GOP won that fight, although Democrats got some funds for the new toxic exposure law deemed “mandatory,” or exempt from appropriations limits.
While Democrats were not able to reclassify as much veterans health spending as they had hoped, they were able to secure a $5.1 billion advance appropriation for the Indian Health Service. Tribal organizations have pushed for this for years, seeking more long-term certainty in funding for critical health care programs for Native American communities.
The omnibus would delay an estimated more than $100 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare and other mandatory spending programs until 2025. If not for that exception, the cuts would be triggered early next year under the 2010 pay-as-you-go law, which prescribes a sequester for any “debit” balances resulting from tax cuts or spending increases that were not offset and added to the deficit.