Biden's first budget includes billions more for high-poverty schools, environmental programs and the CDC

Joey Garrison
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — In his first budget request to Congress, President Joe Biden is proposing spending billions more on Head Start programs, high-poverty schools and the Environmental Protection Agency and boosting civil rights initiatives, including police reform and the prosecution of hate crimes.

The plan also includes the largest increase in the Centers for Disease Control's budget in nearly 20 years as Biden looks to continue combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

The Biden administration submitted a discretionary spending request Friday to Congress for the coming year that includes $769 billion for non-defense federal departments, marking a 16% increase for domestic priorities from the final year of President Donald Trump. 

Biden is requesting $753 billion for the Defense Department, a modest 1.7% increase, signaling a change in priorities from Trump, who embraced more significant increases in defense spending. 

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Overall Biden is requesting $1.52 trillion in discretionary spending, an 8.4% increase over the current year. It would return non-defense discretionary spending to 3.3% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, the historic average over the past 30 years.

The discretionary request – known as the "skinny budget" and prepared by the administration's Office of Management and Budget – outlines Biden's recommendations for the annual appropriations process in Congress and sheds light on his upcoming agenda. A full more detailed budget is expected later this spring.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president inherited "a legacy of chronic underinvestment" in key areas and is "reinvesting in the foundations of our strength." She called the budget proposal an "indication of our priorities."

Republican Senate leaders, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, slammed Biden's defense budget, arguing it sends "a terrible signal not only to our adversaries in Beijing and Moscow, but also to our allies and partners."

Areas that Biden is requesting major funding increases for include: 

  • A record $36.5 billion for Title I grants for high-poverty schools, a $20 billion increase over the current year
  • $11.9 billion for the federal Head Start program that provides early childhood education for low-income families, a $1.2 billion bump over the current year. The program serves 95,000 fewer children today than a decade ago.
  • $8.7 billion for the CDC, an increase of $1.6 billion, which would be the CDC's largest increase in nearly 20 years. The CDC budget this past year was 10% lower than a decade ago.
  • An additional $14 billion across multiple federal agencies aimed at tackling climate change. That includes $1.8 billion for EPA programs to reduce greenhouse gases. Funds for EPA climate change science and technology is 27% lower today than 10 years ago.

DOJ boost for civil rights, voting rights and domestic violence

Much of Biden's new spending proposed for the 2022 fiscal year would infuse federal dollars into education, research, environmental and other domestic programs that Trump unsuccessfully worked to cut.

Biden has proposed $6.5 billion to launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health within the National Institutes of Health to ramp up research on cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and other diseases.

The discretionary request includes $30.4 billion for federal housing vouchers, which the White House says would allow 200,000 additional families receive the assistance. Biden is requesting a $500 million increase for homeless assistance grants that would support an additional 100,000 households.

In a major change from Trump's priorities, Biden is requesting $2.1 billion for efforts to combat gun violence, an increase of $232 million over the current year. It comes after Biden on Thursday signed six executive actions on gun restrictions. 

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Biden is also looking to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement, with a $209 million discretionary request for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Community Relations Service and other programs.

It would mark a $33 million increase over the current year for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division with funds going toward police reform, the prosecution of hate crimes, enforcement of voting rights, and "mediation and conciliation services for community conflicts arising from discriminatory practices," the White House said.  

Biden is proposing doubling spending for the DOJ's Violence Against Women Act programs to $1 billion. This would include funds for new programs to expand restorative justice efforts, protect transgender survivors and support women at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

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The White House called the discretionary spending request a "complementary" proposal to Biden's $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan, proposed last week, which includes historic spending on infrastructure, caregiving, manufacturing, research and other areas.

Biden's discretionary spending request is out later in the year than under past presidents. The White House blamed resistance from Trump officials during the transition as well as the stalled nomination of Biden's pick to lead the OMB, Neera Tanden, for the delay. Shalanda Young, acting OMB director, is currently leading the department.

The U.S House of Representatives and Senate, each controlled Democrats, will ultimately decide federal spending for the next year.

More:Neera Tanden is out. What's next for the White House budget office — and Tanden?

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.