7-bill spending minibus clears House, retains Biden’s proposed federal pay raise

The House on Thursday cleared a $600 billion package of seven spending bills, a small step forward in boosting civilian agency funding next year.

The seven-bill “minibus” cleared the House on Thursday afternoon by a 219-208 vote.

The minibus is silent on federal pay for 2022, a silent endorsement of President Joe Biden’s proposed 2.7% raise for civilian employees.

It includes $300 million to electrify the federal fleet, a key Biden administration priority, as well as $50 million for the Technology Modernization Fund and $18.8 million to stand up the new Office of the National Cyber Director.

With Thursday’s vote, the House has passed nine of 12 appropriations bills, which fund the departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Interior, Labor, Transportation and Treasury, as well as the departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs. The minibus also includes funding for military construction activities, the Environmental Protection Agency and a variety of independent agencies.

The House passed two separate appropriations earlier this week, which fund the legislative branch and the State Department.

The Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce and Justice bills are outstanding in the House.

The process of funding the government for next year isn’t nearly finished or close to complete. Senate appropriators haven’t released their own spending drafts for next year, though the committee is expected to begin that process next week.

Congress must pass spending bills or some sort of short-term continuing resolution by Sept. 30 to keep the government running.

Under the House minibus, the IRS would see a $1.7 billion funding boost in 2022, with a significant portion going toward taxpayer services, enforcement and the agency’s IT modernization needs.

The spending package also includes $42 million for the Office of Personnel Management over current levels and allows the agency to stand up an IT working capital fund.

OPM is still recovering from the loss of its former security clearance business, which brought in nearly $1 billion in revenue to the agency before the Defense Department took over the portfolio back in 2019.

The Department of Veterans Affairs would get an additional $8.7 billion in 2022 over current levels, which includes $2.6 billion for the agency’s electronic health record modernization.

In addition, the spending package injects more funding into EPA, USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in part, to restore capacity and staffing at those agencies.

It also includes $3 billion in initial funding to set up a new research arm within the National Institutes of Health, known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H. It’s less than half of what the president originally requested.

The House minibus also removes a long-held prohibition on abortion services in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program — a point of controversy for House Republicans during the appropriations process.

The legislation blocks agencies from prohibiting the use of official time or telework “when the health or safety of an employee is in question.” It also prevents agencies from using federal funds to deny employees office space for “union activities,” seemingly a direct response to the executive orders former President Donald Trump signed back in 2018 that Biden has since repealed.

The Biden administration took issue with part of it.

“The administration appreciates the committee’s recognition of the crucial role played by the federal workforce and their employee rights, but is concerned that the telework specific portion … of the bill may impede the president’s ability to manage executive branch functions,” the White House wrote in a Statement of Administration Policy.

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