Key Senators Agree on Spending Levels for Next Year

Key Senators Agree on Spending Levels for Next Year

The Senate will seek a 3.4% increase in defense spending and a 2.7% increase in non-defense programs next year, according to an agreement reached by top Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee, setting up a potential clash with the House, which is pursuing lower spending in both categories.

President Joe Biden and then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached an agreement last year to increase spending by 1% for defense and non-defense programs in fiscal year 2025, increasing the totals to around $780.4 billion for non-defense and $895.2 billion for defense.

Some senators argued that the increase would not keep up with inflation and would result in cuts to many programs.

The bipartisan Senate accord announced this week includes $13.5 billion more in emergency funding for non-defense programs and $21 billion more for defense programs than the Biden-McCarthy plan.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are following a more austere route, allowing for a 1% rise in defense but huge cuts in non-defense, resulting in an average 6% drop, but some programs would be cut much more severely and other GOP priority would be eliminated entirely.

While some Republican senators advocated for increased defense expenditure, Democrats insisted on the same treatment for non-defense programs.

“I have made it clear that we cannot fail to address the insufficient funding levels that we face, and that I will not leave pressing nondefense needs unmet,” said Sen. Patty Murray, the Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Murray has been negotiating with the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Susan Collins, on discretionary spending for next year. Such spending excludes required spending on major entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, which account for roughly two-thirds of total federal spending and do not require an annual vote by Congress.

Collins stated that the United States is facing one of the most dangerous security settings in the past 50 years, and that challenges from Iran, Russia, and China “must be met with the resolve to invest in a stronger national defense.”

“Under this agreement, additional funding for our military would be accompanied by efforts to halt the flow of fentanyl at our borders, invest in biomedical research, and maintain affordable housing programs,” Mr. Collins said.

The Republican-led House has moved more quickly on spending than the Senate. It has passed four of the 12 yearly spending measures thus far, but the Senate has yet to pass any. However, all four House measures have prompted veto threats from the White House, drew strong Democratic opposition, and have not chance of passing the Senate in their current form.

That means a protracted, months-long battle that will most likely necessitate one or more stopgap budget bills to keep the federal government fully operational when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

With the elections approaching and members spending so much time away from Washington, Congress is unlikely to pass final budget bills until after the elections. Final passage might possibly be postponed until next year if one party wins the White House and both houses of Congress.

The Senate Appropriations Committee leaders achieved an agreement on spending just as the committee was ready to vote on its first three spending proposals on Thursday.

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