Request for emergency response and Afghan resettlement money raises stakes as deadline looms.
The Biden administration is looking to attach emergency funding to a stopgap spending bill Congress must pass by the end of the year to avoid a government shutdown, hoping to address crises in natural disaster response and Afghan resettlement.
Administration officials said on Tuesday the White House will be asking lawmakers to add around $30 billion to the upcoming continuing resolution. About $14 billion of that would go toward ongoing response efforts for storms and wildfires prior to Hurricane Ida, such as hurricanes Laura and Delta. The administration will also work with Congress to determine the funding needs in response to Ida, which devastated Louisiana and part of the Northeast last week. Officials said they expect that will total at least another $10 billion.
The White House is also seeking $6.4 billion for its ongoing efforts to resettle evacuated Afghans. Nearly 40% of that funding would go to the Defense Department to continue providing transportation and operating its “lilypad” sites overseas that are currently housing Afghans as they await clearance to enter the United States. The Health and Human Services Department would receive $1.7 billion to provide health screening, COVID-19 vaccinations and similar services to refugee resettlement, while the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development would get $800 million to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would see a funding boost to continue its efforts to screen Afghans for entry into the United States.
Administration officials said they expect to bring into the United States up to 65,000 Afghans by the end of the month and an additional 30,000 next year, including those still in Afghanistan. Those figures would not affect the overall refugee cap for fiscal 2022, which President Biden has said will be 125,000.
In a blog post on Tuesday, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young said it is now clear Congress will need a short-term spending bill to “provide more time for the [fiscal] 2022 process to unfold.”
“The window provided by a short-term [continuing resolution] will allow movement toward bipartisan agreement on smart, full-year appropriations bills that reinvest in core priorities, meet the needs of American families, businesses and communities, and lay a strong foundation for the future,” Young said.
The White House is providing additional guidance to Congress on the CR to avoid “severe disruptions to public service” that would occur without any alterations to current spending language. Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to pass a funding measure and avoid a government shutdown. Administration officials on Tuesday said they have been in regular contact with members of Congress about the funding situation, but did not want to “get ahead of the process” by suggesting a length for the CR.
Further complicating the spending fight is the looming debt limit. The Treasury Department has instituted “extraordinary measures” to avoid breaching that ceiling but it still expects to reach the limit in the coming weeks or months. Nearly every Republican senator has said they will not vote to raise the limit, while Democrats have said Congress should also do so as part of the CR.
The House has approved many of the requisite spending bills for fiscal 2022, which included large spending increases for nearly all federal agencies and did not gain Republican support. The Senate, which will have to win bipartisan backing to advance its appropriations measures, has not yet released any of its bills.