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On April 9, President Biden officially sent to Congress what is known as the “skinny budget” – a 58-page summary of a much larger and more detailed budget proposal to be submitted later this spring.  The skinny budget contains only the “top-lines,” or total request levels, for each category of spending, with minimal details about how the funds will be allocated among specific programs.

We found a lot to love about the proposal, even in its skeleton form:

All of these are victories and the result of the persistent and prophetic efforts of our professional lobbyists and our powerful grassroots networks.

  • It prioritizes investments in people and the domestic economy, with large increases for education, housing assistance, and addressing the climate crisis.
  • It abandons the “parity principle” – a long-time feature of budget deal-making that linked each increase in domestic spending with an equal (or sometimes greater) increase in Pentagon spending.
  • It recognizes the importance of diplomacy and multilateralism, providing extra funding for United Nations peacekeeping – including a plan for paying back U.S. arrears – and for expanding and diversifying our Foreign Service.
  • It scraps the category of “Overseas Contingency Operations,” which was used as a slush fund for forever wars that did not count against budget caps.

All of these are victories and the result of the persistent and prophetic efforts of our professional lobbyists and our powerful grassroots networks. They reflect messages that we have been patiently carrying to Congress over many years, and to the Biden-Harris administration ever since they created a transition team last fall.

Some of the specifics that we found most encouraging are:

Funding Human Needs 

After years of underinvestment in critical human needs programs, the Biden budget includes significant increases in non-defense programs. Rather than adhering to arbitrary spending caps, as Congress has been forced to do over the past decade, this budget looks at need. The Biden budget makes big investments in housing assistance, funding 200,000 additional Housing Choice Vouchers. It increases aid for people experiencing homelessness by $500 million (a 17% increase) and provides more money for affordable housing. There is a huge increase in education funding, particularly Title I funds for disadvantaged students.

Tackling Climate Change

The Biden budget goes big on climate, investing billions of dollars across agencies in clean energy and environmental justice. It puts the country on a path to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050. It increases funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by over 20 percent, including a 20 percent increase in water infrastructure funding at the EPA. The budget also establishes a new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity.

Support for Development and Diplomacy

The proposal invests $63.5 billion in the State Department and USAID—a $6.8 billion increase, or roughly 12%, over last year’s enacted budget. It addresses the root causes of migration and displacement, calling for a $4 billion, four-year commitment to “curtailing endemic corruption, preventing violence, reducing poverty, and expanding economic development opportunities” in Central America. It also seeks $10 billion to “support vulnerable people abroad, including refugees, conflict victims, and other displaced persons,” which would be a $2.2 billion increase from last year.

We were, however, disheartened to see that the administration did not heed our calls to reduce excessive Pentagon spending. 

We were, however, disheartened to see that the administration did not heed our calls to reduce excessive Pentagon spending. 

The budget that President Biden sent to Capitol Hill contained $753 billion for the military – a $12 billion increase over the previous year. While the percentage of the increase is small – only about 1.7% – the dollar amount of the increase is quite large. To put it in perspective, the increase for the Pentagon above last year’s spending is about equal to the total spent on Operation Warp Speed to develop the coronavirus vaccine. 

All in all, however, this budget reflects a refreshing break from the last four years of proposed cuts in human needs and international cooperation. While we may not see the full details for a month or more, Congress will need to pass a budget to enable the “reconciliation” process under which the major infrastructure bills will be considered.  That’s why it’s so important that you ask your Members of Congress to weigh in now with their party leaders on putting people, peace and planet first.

 

Amelia Kegan

Amelia Kegan

Legislative Director, Domestic Policy
Amelia Kegan leads the domestic policy team’s work in analyzing legislation, advocating on Capitol Hill, and developing legislative strategy.
Diana Ohlbaum, Senior Strategist and Legislative Director for Foreign Policy

Diana Ohlbaum

Senior Strategist and Legislative Director for Foreign Policy
Diana Ohlbaum directs FCNL’s foreign policy lobbying team and leads an effort to replace the current U.S. foreign policy paradigm of military domination and national superiority with a more ethical and effective one based on cooperation and mutual respect.

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