Preliminary Biden budget outline expected next week

Officials say priority is to provide Congress with information to begin appropriations process

Joe Biden is running behind previous presidents in submitting an initial limited version of the budget in their first terms. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Joe Biden is running behind previous presidents in submitting an initial limited version of the budget in their first terms. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 23, 2021 at 3:23pm, Updated at 5:14pm

The White House confirmed Tuesday it will release a “preview” of the fiscal 2022 budget next week, which it said will enable lawmakers to begin to draft appropriations bills.

But officials stressed the preview won’t be a “formal” budget volume, adding the administration does not intend to describe it by the popular moniker “skinny” budget.

“Our priority is to provide Congress with early information about the president’s discretionary funding priorities, which is what they need to begin the appropriations process,” Office of Management and Budget spokesman Rob Friedlander said. 

Friedlander explained that the document will provide an outline of President Joe Biden's priorities during the first year since 2012 that discretionary spending won’t be constrained by statutory spending caps.

The caps enacted in a 2011 deficit reduction law expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30. Without caps in place, Friedlander said there is “an opportunity to look at spending on a variety of domestic priorities including public health and energy.” 

It wasn’t yet clear what day the budget outline would be released.

Sources said the White House is looking to release the full budget in May, but Friedlander would only say the proposal will be issued later this spring. The budget will show how Biden’s “full agenda of investments and tax reforms fits together in a fiscally and economically responsible plan to address the overlapping crises we face,” he said. 

Friedlander reiterated the complaint that Biden officials faced obstruction from the Trump budget office during the transition period after the election when the incoming administration typically works with the outgoing administration to get a head start on budget preparation.

Donald Trump’s OMB director, Russ Vought, said in a Dec. 31 letter that Trump’s OMB participated in more than 45 meetings with Biden officials and provided all information requested.

Biden administration officials have also said the lack of a full-time OMB director has set back their timetable for a full budget release. Biden’s first choice to head his budget office, Neera Tanden, withdrew her name after running into bipartisan Senate opposition.

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed longtime House Appropriations aide Shalanda Young as deputy OMB director. White House officials have said Young will be named acting budget director while they decide on a replacement for Tanden — a job Young is considered a front-runner for.

Biden is running behind previous presidents in submitting an initial limited version of the budget in their first terms.

President Barack Obama released early details on Feb. 26, 2009, and his predecessor, George W. Bush, did so on Feb. 28, 2001. Bill Clinton gave an overview in a speech to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 17, 1993. 

Clinton and Bush didn’t submit full, detailed budget volumes to Congress in their first years in office until early April. Obama didn’t submit his until May 7.

Trump’s “skinny” budget, released March 16, 2017, totaled 62 pages and was limited to topline discretionary appropriations tables and summary information for each agency. Detailed explanatory information about longer-term budget proposals and line-by-line budget numbers weren’t distributed until May 23.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.