Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
April 9, 2021

The House and Senate are winding down Easter recess.  The Senate will reconvene early next week at 3:00 pm on Monday, April 12th and the House on Tuesday, April 13th, with votes at 6:30.

In his first budget request to Congress, President Joe Biden is proposing spending billions more on Head Start programs, high-poverty schools and the Environmental Protection Agency and boosting civil rights initiatives, including police reform and the prosecution of hate crimes.  The plan also includes the largest increase in the Centers for Disease Control’s budget in 20 years as Biden looks to continue combatting the coronavirus pandemic.  The Biden administration submitted a discretionary spending request Friday to Congress for the coming year that includes $769 billion for non-defense federal departments, marking a significant 16% increase for domestic priorities from the final year of former President Donald Trump.  Biden is requesting $753 billion for the Defense Department, a modest 1.7% increase, signaling a change in priorities from Trump, who embraced more significant increases in defense spending.  Much of the new spending proposed for the 2022 fiscal year would infuse federal dollars into education, environmental and other domestic programs that Trump unsuccessfully worked to cut.  Overall, Biden is requesting $1.52 trillion in discretionary spending, an 8.4% increase over the current year. It would return non-defense discretionary spending to 3.3% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, the historic average over the past 30 years.  The specifics for areas that Biden is requesting major funding increases for include:

  1. A record $36.5 billion for Title I grants for high-poverty schools, a $20 billion increase over the current year
  2. $11.9 billion for the federal Head Start program that provides early childhood education for low-income families, a $1.2 billion bump over the current year. The program serves 95,000 fewer children today than a decade ago
  3. $8.7 billion for the CDC, an increase of $1.6 billion, which would be the CDC’s largest in 20 years. The CDC budget this past year was 10% lower than a decade ago.
  4. An additional $14 billion across multiple federal agencies aimed at tackling climate change. That includes $1.8 billion for EPA programs to reduce greenhouse gases. Funds for EPA climate change science and technology is 27% lower today than 10 years ago.

As action on The American Jobs Plan picks up, President Biden plans to meet with a bipartisan group of U.S. House and Senate lawmakers Monday on his proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan.  House Democrats will return from a three-week recess Tuesday and as the House sets out to begin crafting Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and her leadership team will have to balance at times competing demands from the liberal and moderate wings of her caucus on spending for such things as highways, bridges, climate change and elder care.  Two competing factions include a group of eight Democrats representing mostly Northeastern districts who recently declared they would vote against the tax increases Biden has proposed to pay for his infrastructure proposal unless a cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions included in President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut law is repealed. During a news conference last week, Pelosi said she was “sympathetic” to the group’s position as a representative of California, a state that has also strongly felt the impact of the SALT provision, and remains hopeful the issue can be addressed. She also made clear that she didn’t want members airing their concerns publicly.   In addition, the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus issued its top priorities for President Biden’s infrastructure sprawling package yesterday which includes: 1) Strengthen the Care Economy; 2) Bold Investments in Affordable Housing; 3) Dramatically Lower Drug Prices & Use Savings to Pay for Public Health Expansion; 4) Bold Investments in Climate Jobs and Impacted Communities; 5) Roadmap for Citizenship and Inclusion for Immigrant Communities. Speaker Pelosi said Thursday that the Democrats’ summer push for infrastructure and jobs legislation will likely be split into two separate bills, with a goal of wrapping up both before Congress’s August recess.

Of note, President Biden on Friday will order a bipartisan commission to study a slew of potential reforms to the U.S. Supreme Court, including the politically volatile question of whether the high court should be expanded.  The new commission, which comprises dozens of legal scholars, will hold public meetings to hear “varied perspectives on the issues it will be examining,” the White House said in a press release announcing the executive order.  The group will issue a report within 180 days of its first meeting, the White House said.  The order marks the fulfillment of Biden’s campaign promise to convene a group of experts to look into the myriad debates about the Supreme Court’s structure.

Statement by President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on the Passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh of the United Kingdom this morning.  NYT obituary.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.