The Biden administration on Friday unveiled a $1.5 trillion partial budget request for the next fiscal year, calling for increases across a range of domestic programs aimed at fighting poverty and climate change, while keeping defense spending relatively flat.
The 41-page document lays out the White House's spending priorities, and while it's up to Congress to set exact spending levels and programs, the budget is expected to be received favorably by the Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill.
The administration's first budget blueprint does not contain details of the president's $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, nor does it lay out projected spending on programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Details on those and the president's proposed tax increases are promised later this spring.
The budget numbers released Friday would increase overall spending on discretionary programs by $118 billion, or 8.4% above last year's levels. Defense spending would remain essentially flat with an increase of $12.3 billion, or 1.7%, while other domestic programs get a 15.9% boost.
While the budget figures are just an outline of the administration's priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, they nonetheless represent what is expected to be a return to higher levels of domestic spending under Biden. That's because for the first time in a decade, Congress and the White House won't be constrained by the across-the-board spending caps put in place in 2011 to reduce the federal deficit. Those caps expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30.
A senior administration official told reporters that the president believes "now is the time to begin reversing this trend and reinvesting in the foundations of our country's strength."
One of the biggest beneficiaries under the president's proposal is spending on education, which would see an increase of nearly $30 billion, or 40.8%. Much of that would go to high-poverty schools, aiming to reduce funding disparities with wealthier schools.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would receive $8.7 billion, which the administration says is the biggest increase in two decades and would "restore capacity at the world's preeminent public health agency.
Other items include:
- Climate change investments spread across almost every agency, representing a $14 billion increase over 2021. This would include $1.4 billion for environmental justice initiatives, the largest direct investment in history, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
- A new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health would get $6.5 billion to focus on diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.
- Opioids research, prevention and treatment would get $10.7 billion, an increase of $3.9 billion.
- Gun violence initiatives at the Justice Department would get $2.1 billion, an increase of $232 million.
- Aid for Central American countries aimed at curbing migration would see an initial investment of $861 million.
- Foreign aid programs — a common target for cuts during the Trump administration — would see a boost, including $1 billion for global health security programs, $2.5 billion for international climate programs and more than $10 billion in humanitarian aid for refugees and conflict victims abroad.
- Amtrak, a favorite mode of transportation for the president, would receive $2.7 billion, a 35% increase, with much of that targeted for improving and expanding the heavily traveled Northeast corridor.
- The IRS, which Democrats say was chronically underfunded in recent years, would receive $1.12 billion, a 10.4% increase.
The partial budget was delayed, in part, because the administration lacks a confirmed budget director. Nominee Neera Tanden withdrew because of opposition from several key senators who cited what they said were offensive tweets. The Office of Management and Budget is being led by Shalanda Young, the deputy OMB director.
Administration officials also cited a lack of cooperation from the outgoing administration of former President Donald Trump as a reason it took the Biden team several weeks longer than anticipated to draft its spending plan.
The proposed increases in domestic spending won praise from the chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said "the investments proposed by the Biden administration are necessary and urgent," while his House counterpart, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said that "at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has exposed serious needs across the United States, this request meets the moment and charts a course for a better future."
But the defense spending levels were singled out by Republicans as insufficient, while some progressive Democrats called them too high.
In a joint statement, several GOP senators led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that "President Biden recently said, 'If we don't get moving, [China] is going to eat our lunch.' Today's budget proposal signals to China that they should set the table. While President Biden has prioritized spending trillions on liberal wish list priorities here at home, funding for America's military is neglected."
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., meanwhile, a member of the House progressive caucus, called Biden's proposed defense outlays "disappointing" and said more funding should be shifted from defense in order to address climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.
"Those are the issues impacting the security of the American people and will keep Americans safer than spending billions on more deadly weapons," he said.
The budget announcement comes after Biden last week unveiled a proposal worth about $2 trillion to overhaul the country's infrastructure, a plan that includes billions in new spending to repair bridges, highways and roads; expand access to high-speed broadband; and upgrade schools.
The hope among Democrats is that carving out infrastructure spending as a separate venture could open a path to winning Republican votes in Congress, where Democrats have a thin majority. President Biden has said he is open to negotiations with Republicans, but the White House has also signaled that it is prepared to move forward without GOP support.
So far, the president's plans have run up against stiff resistance from GOP lawmakers. Not a single Republican voted for the administration's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, and support for the infrastructure plan has so far failed to materialize.