On June 15, the House Appropriations Committee announced their markup schedule for fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding bills, setting up new fights over federal spending for the coming year. Read on for the dates, and how to read the Committee's actions from Michael Best Strategies' appropriations experts:

How to read these dates: Each of the 12 annual funding bills are written first by a dedicated subcommittee within House Appropriations. On the "subcommittee markup" dates, the subcommittee with jurisdiction will release their draft funding bill in a short (often just 5-10 minutes) subcommittee meeting. About one week later, the full House Appropriations Committee will hold another markup for each bill to allow members to propose and vote on amendments plus approval of each of the 12 bills. Besides amendments, the full committee markups will yield critical accompanying reports for each of the 12 funding bills. These reports are often more important than the bills themselves, because they include further detail and binding instructions from Congress to federal agencies. Here's the House committee's new schedule:

Thursday, June 24:

Subcommittee Markups: Financial Services and General Government, Legislative Branch

Friday, June 25:

Subcommittee Markups: Agriculture/Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA)

Monday, June 28:

Subcommittee Markups: Interior-Environment, State and Foreign Operations

Tuesday, June 29:

Full Committee Markups: Subcommittee Allocation (302(b)s), Financial Services and General Government, Legislative Branch

Wednesday, June 30:

Full Committee Markups: Ag/FDA, MilCon-VA

Subcommittee Markups: Defense, Homeland Security

Thursday, July 1:

Full Committee Markups: Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Ops

Monday, July 12:

Subcommittee Markups: Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water, Labor-HHS-Ed, Transportation and HUD

Tuesday, July 13:

Full Committee Markups: Defense, Homeland Security

Thursday, July 15:

Full Committee Markups: Commerce-Justice-Science, Labor-HHS-Ed

Friday, July 16:

Full Committee Markups: Energy and Water Development, Transportation and HUD

Background: Appropriators in the House and the Senate must every year pass 12 annual funding bills to keep the federal government operating. Congressional appropriators are preparing for FY 2022, which begins on October 1, 2021. In designing these funding bills, appropriators take input from the White House (the Biden Administration released their full FY 2022 funding request on May 28) as well as congressional leadership, individual members of Congress, and their constituents.

While the appropriations process follows a reliable rhythm, several new developments are adding some excitement to the FY 2022 cycle:

  • For the first time since 2011, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are allowing individual members of Congress to request funding for specific projects (also called "earmarks," "congressionally directed spending," or "community project funds") within FY 2022 funding bills. Congress is reviving these requests after a nearly ten-year ban, with significant reforms to prevent public concerns about waste or abuse. The House Appropriations Committee collected earmark requests from February - April 2021, while the Senate Appropriations Committee will collect them through mid-July. Appropriators then face the daunting task of prioritizing and agreeing on which projects to fund.
  • An all-Democratic Washington, plus the end of ten-year budget caps (remember "sequestration?") implemented under the 2011 Budget Control Act, offers a rare chance for appropriators pass dramatic domestic funding increases. The Biden Administration has proposed a whopping 16.5% increase for domestic spending for FY 2022. House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), will run with that recommendation to push new investments in child care, public health plus pandemic recovery, climate, and education.
  • However, Democrats are not guaranteed to pass the big spending increases they want, due the balance of power in Washington. Congressional Republicans, despite backing large government expenditures on tax cuts under President Trump, have already signaled they will oppose funding bills they think are too large. In the House, Democrats control the chamber by only four votes, and must wrangle both progressives who want to spend big with moderates concerned about losing their seats to Republicans in next year's midterm elections. An even bigger problem in the Senate: appropriations bills need 60 votes to overcome the chamber's filibuster rule, but Democrats only control 50 Senate seats with Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker. Therefore, for any FY 2022 funding bill to pass the Senate, appropriators must design bills that can attract at least ten Republican Senators' votes.

How will Democrats balance their own promises for economic recovery and new domestic investments with fiscal concerns from the GOP and moderate members of their own party? Can Democratic leaders revive earmarks to gather more support for their funding bills? We'll begin to see answers to these questions later this month.

What comes next?

House appropriators hope to finish work on each of their 12 FY 2022 funding bills by mid-July. Then, they will send these bills for yet another round of amendments and final approval in the full House. The House wants to pass all 12 bills to the Senate by the end of July.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, though several weeks behind their House counterparts' schedule, could also soon announce their own parallel bill introduction and markup process, following a similar process to the House. However, the Senate is unlikely to finish this work before breaking for a several week-long recess in August 2021. That leaves House and Senate leaders with precious little time to finish their own work, then merge their own bills with into final funding proposals (an interchamber process called "conference") for another round of approval votes, before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

If Congress can't pass final FY 2022 funding bills by October 1, then they risk triggering a politically and economically disastrous federal shutdown. Congress will probably sidestep the deadline, as they have each year for more than a decade, by passing short-term vehicles to hold current FY 2021 levels in place into later in 2021, probably December. Congress will likely (finally!) finish work on FY 2022 funding bills by December 2021, just in time to start looking at FY 2023.

Understanding the appropriations process and its players helps government relations professionals to better strategize and achieve your public policy goals.