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Biden Budget: Funds for Schools, Health04/10 12:23

   President Joe Biden released a $1.5 trillion wish list for his first federal 
budget, asking for substantial gains for Democratic priorities including 
education, health care, housing and environmental protection.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden released a $1.5 trillion wish list 
for his first federal budget, asking for substantial gains for Democratic 
priorities including education, health care, housing and environmental 
protection.

   The request by the White House budget office Friday for an 8.4% increase in 
agency operating budgets spells out Biden's top priorities as Congress weighs 
its spending plans for next year. It's the first financial outline of the 
Democrats' broader ambitions since the expiration of a 2011 law that capped 
congressional spending.

   "I'm hoping it'll have some bipartisan support across the board," Biden said 
before an Oval Office meeting with his economics team, though prominent Senate 
Republicans immediately complained the plan would shortchange the military and 
national security in boosting domestic programs.

   Bipartisanship in 2011 also restricted Democrats' ambitions, a problem 
they're now trying to address. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the 
administration was "inheriting a legacy of chronic underinvestment" because of 
the caps.

   "The president is focused on reversing this trend and reinvesting in the 
foundations of our strength," she told reporters at a briefing.

   At stake is "discretionary spending," roughly one-third of the huge federal 
budget that is passed by Congress each year, funding the military, domestic 
Cabinet department operations, foreign policy and homeland security. The rest 
of the budget involves so-called mandatory programs with locked-in spending, 
chiefly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

   The Biden request provides a significantly smaller 1.6% increase for the 
$700 billion-plus Pentagon budget than for domestic accounts. Homeland security 
accounts would basically be frozen, reflecting opposition among Democratic 
progressives to immigration security forces.

   Senate Republicans were quick to criticize the modest proposed increase for 
defense, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Oklahoma's Jim Inhofe, Florida's 
Marco Rubio, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and Alabama's Richard Shelby 
releasing a joint statement.

   "Talk is cheap, but defending our country is not," they said. "We can't 
afford to fail in our constitutional responsibility to provide for the common 
defense. To keep America strong, we must balance domestic and defense spending 
priorities."

   The appropriations process was one of the few consistent success stories of 
former President Donald Trump's tumultuous four-year tenure in office, but this 
year's budget cycle is not governed by the formal spending caps of a broader 
outline. The lapse of those caps opens the door to more domestic spending 
favored by Biden and Democrats but invites a battle with Republicans over 
military accounts.

   The Biden administration believes the caps, imposed by a long-abandoned 2011 
budget deal, caused a decade of severe underinvestment in public services that 
the president is now trying to turn around with large increases that would 
mostly bypass national security programs.

   The administration says the request would bring spending in line with 
historical averages. It seeks $769 billion in non-defense discretionary 
funding, about equal to the 30-year average relative to the overall U.S. 
economy.

   Biden wants to increase the Education Department's budget by a massive 40.8% 
to $102.8 billion, which includes an additional $20 billion in grants for 
high-poverty schools.

   The Department of Health and Human Services would get a 23.1% boost to 
$133.7 billion. There would be additional funds to combat opioid addiction and 
for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose mission took on new 
urgency during the coronavirus pandemic. The administration is also asking for 
$6.5 billion to establish a biomedical research agency to address cancer, 
diabetes, Alzheimer's and other diseases.

   Biden is seeking a $14 billion increase across government agencies to 
address climate change. It's part of a whole-of-government approach to the 
climate crisis that includes billions to boost environmental justice for 
communities near refineries, power plants and other hazardous sites.

   Housing and Urban Development would get a 15.1% increase to $68.7 billion, 
primarily to provide housing vouchers for an additional 200,000 families. The 
administration also seeks more money for civil rights enforcement and 
addressing gun violence as a public health epidemic.

   Passing the president's plan as written through Congress is typically a long 
shot. Recent history and guaranteed conflicts with Republicans are likely to 
force lawmakers to put discretionary accounts on autopilot for months after the 
Sept. 30 expiration of the budget year.

   The plan also details how the Biden administration will try to deal with the 
influx of arrivals at the U.S. southern border. It includes $861 million to 
invest in Central America to address the forces driving people to migrate to 
the United States. An additional $345 million would go to immigration services 
to resolve delays in years-long naturalization and asylum cases. The budget for 
the Executive Office of Immigration Review would jump 21% to $891 million in 
order to hire 100 new immigration judges and support teams to reduce the 
existing backlogs.

   The president seeks modest increases for national security. Defense -- the 
largest department in the discretionary plan -- would get a 1.6% increase to 
$715 billion. Homeland Security would edge up 0.2% to $52 billion.

   But the administration views diplomacy as a way to engage with the wider 
world. It's pursuing a 12% increase in funding for the State Department and the 
U.S. Agency for International Development, taking their spending to $63.5 
billion.

   Friday's request does not include plans for tax revenues or mandatory 
federal spending. Nor does it include the planned spending in Biden's 
infrastructure plan. A fuller budget proposal will be released later this 
spring.

 
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