By / Mar 10

On March 9, President Biden released his Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal. Every year, the president submits his budget proposal, and it serves as a blueprint for the administration’s priorities. A president’s budget proposal has no binding authority over Congress and will not become law. Rather, it is a request and a statement of priorities that serves as a starting point for negotiations in Congress as the House of Representatives and the Senate work on the 12 spending appropriations bills that fund the government. Given that Republicans now control the House of Representatives, it is likely that the final budget will look quite different from this initial proposal.

The ERLC actively engages in the appropriations process each year. In the president’s budget proposal, there are areas of deep concern, but also areas of possible collaboration. As negotiations begin in Congress, the ERLC will share these concerns and advocate for changes that protect life, promote religious liberty, support families, and respect human dignity.

Exclusion of pro-life riders and increased funding for abortion providers

Biden’s budget proposal includes a request for a 79% increase in additional funding for abortion providers through the Title X Family Planning program over last year’s enacted amounts. Though pro-life riders have traditionally kept this funding from directly funding abortion procedures, abortion providers are still able to receive funding through the Title X Family Planning program and other government funds to cover operational costs, allowing them to more easily reserve non-taxpayer dollars for abortion services. Although it is vital for women of any economic status to have access to important healthcare services, abortion — the act of taking a life — is not healthcare.

Additionally, the budget includes investments in “reproductive healthcare” at the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as funding for pro-abortion family planning internationally. Since the Dobbs decision, the Biden administration has made a number of moves to expand abortion access and coverage at VA facilities for those currently or formerly in the military. The budget includes $57 million to support the UN Population fund, a pro-abortion organization. As we seek to aid impoverished nations around the world, we should offer them real medical aid – not abortion.

Notably, for the third time since its inception in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has presumably been excluded from the president’s proposal. The Hyde Amendment is a budget rider on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill to prevent Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. This rider, along with other pro-life riders, are essential in protecting life as well as the consciences of millions of American taxpayers. Though the portion of the president’s budget request that was released on Thursday seems to indicate that these riders have been excluded, we will not know definitively until additional appendixes are released next week.

Before the Hyde Amendment was introduced, approximately 300,000 abortions a year were performed using federal Medicaid dollars. It is estimated that the Hyde Amendment has saved over 2 million lives since it was enacted. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been passed by every Congress. Its success across the generations is not due to a shared belief about abortion but precisely because those representatives and senators believed the disagreement deserved respect. It is vital that Congress, throughout negotiations, attaches the Hyde-family of riders that protect life and protect the consciences of millions of Americans. It is important to note that although Biden’s FY 2022 and 2023 budget proposals also excluded these amendments, they were ultimately included in the final appropriations packages passed by Congress.

Emphasis on advancing gender equity

Throughout the budget proposal, Biden includes multiple proposals that advance “gender equity,” which includes sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The president’s budget proposal would expand SOGI protections in all areas of life, invests $3 billion to “advance gender equity” internationally, and commits to providing gender-affirming care to veterans in VA facilities, with taxpayer funding. Efforts to advance SOGI as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back religious freedom and conscience protections. As the ERLC has long maintained, a government that is able to pave over the conscience is one that has the unlimited ability to steamroll dissent on any issue.

Potentially helpful areas of investment

Though increased funding does not always necessitate better outcomes, we affirm the president’s desire to promote human flourishing through investment in a number of areas. Given that our spending allocations are often a statement of what we prioritize as a nation, it is encouraging to see emphasis from the president on a few key areas:

  • Improving border security and immigration processing: The budget proposal includes an increase of $800 million for border security agencies and increased investments in border patrol and processing personnel. That investment in border security is coupled with increased funding for meeting humanitarian needs at the border and funding for 150 new immigration judge teams to speed up asylum processing. 
  • Rebuilding refugee resettlement and supporting Afghan evacuees: The proposal includes a $7.3 billion investment in resettling 125,000 refugees in the next fiscal year as well as responding to the needs of unaccompanied migrant children. The budget also includes funding for expedited processing and increased visas available for Afghans who served with the US military and were evacuated to the U.S. following the Taliban’s takeover.
  • Supporting vulnerable mothers and families: Though we would not fully support all aspects of these programs as proposed, the proposal includes several initiatives related to reducing maternal mortality, expanding insurance coverage for postpartum mothers, ensuring paid leave for new parents, and expanding the Child Tax Credit. While we have disagreements with the administration about some of the specifics of these policies, it is encouraging to see pro-family policies receive a prominent position in the president’s proposal.
  • Making adoption more affordable: The budget proposal includes initiatives that seek to better support children and families in the adoption and foster care systems. It also proposes making the adoption tax credit fully refundable, something the ERLC has long advocated for, making adoption more affordable and accessible 
  • Implementing the First Step Act: In 2018, President Trump signed into law the First Step Act, a package of significant criminal justice reforms, supported by the ERLC. This budget proposal includes financial investments in implementing that law to support rehabilitative programming, improving prison conditions, and hiring new staff to implement First Step Act reforms.

What’s next?

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin the appropriations process which includes a hearing to discuss budget requests and writing and marking up the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Congress will have the opportunity to make significant changes, such as including the Hyde Amendment and other important pro-life riders, as they did in Fiscal Year 2023. It is likely that each chamber, and thus each party, will release competing versions of these bills, and negotiations will be fierce as lawmakers debate what will be included in the final package. 

Each year, the ERLC is actively engaged in the appropriations process, working alongside committee and leadership offices to ensure that important pro-life, religious liberty, and conscience protections are included and harmful policies are excluded. The ERLC will continuously advocate for the inclusion of these pro-life provisions as well as other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life around the world.

By / Mar 30

On Mon., March 28, President Biden released his FY 2023 budget proposal. Every year, the president submits his budget proposal, and it serves as a blueprint for the administration’s priorities. A president’s budget proposal has no binding authority over Congress. It is a request and a statement of priorities and serves as a starting point for a long negotiation in Congress as they work on the 12 spending appropriations bills that fund the government. 

The ERLC actively engages in the appropriations process each year, and in the recently released FY23 budget proposal, there are areas of deep concern, but also areas of possible collaboration.

Exclusion of pro-life riders and increased funding for abortion providers

Notably, for only the second time since its inception in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been excluded from the president’s proposal. The Hyde Amendment is a budget rider on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill to prevent Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. This rider, along with other pro-life riders, are essential in protecting life as well as the consciences of millions of American taxpayers. 

Before the Hyde Amendment was introduced, approximately 300,000 abortions a year were performed using federal Medicaid dollars. It is estimated that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million lives since it was enacted. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been passed by every Congress. Its success across the generations is not due to a shared belief about abortion but precisely because those representatives and senators believed the disagreement deserved respect. 

Congress should also protect the Weldon (discrimination protections for those with objections to abortion), Dornan (Hyde protections in the District of Columbia), Helms (protection against funds being used for abortion in international aid), Siljander (protection against funds being used to lobby for abortion internationally), and Kamp-Kasten (protection against funds to organizations that support coercive abortion or sterilization) Amendments. It is important to note that although Biden’s FY 2022 budget proposal also excluded these amendments, they were ultimately included in the final appropriations package passed by Congress.

Biden’s budget proposal also includes a request for a 40% increase in additional funding for abortion providers through the Title X Family Planning program. Though these pro-life riders have traditionally kept this funding from directly funding abortion procedures, abortion providers are still able to receive funding through the Title X Family Planning program and other government funds to cover operational costs, allowing them to more easily reserve non-taxpayer dollars for abortion services. Although it is vital for women of any economic status to have access to important healthcare services, abortion — the act of taking a life — is not healthcare.

Inclusion of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity langauge

Throughout the budget proposal, Biden includes multiple proposals that advance “gender equality” on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Efforts to advance SOGI as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back

religious freedom and conscience protections. As the ERLC has long maintained, a government that is able to pave over the conscience is one that has the unlimited ability to steamroll dissent on any issue.

In the proposal, Biden references several Executive Orders he has signed during his presidency on this topic, including Executive Order 14020, “Establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council,” establishing the first White House Gender Policy Council within the Executive Office of the President and charged the office with leading a government-wide effort to advance gender equity and equality. Last year the administration issued the first ever National Strategy on Gender Equity. As the ERLC noted when that strategy was introduced, “This strategy is not only ambitious, but can be seen as a way for the federal government to expand its authority and influence over everyday life given the sheer breadth of issues included.”

The ERLC will closely be tracking these developments as Congress begins their budget proposal and will advocate against the inclusion of any provision that could hinder the American conscience and religious liberty. 

Rebuilding of the refugee resettlement program and immigration processes

One area where we were pleased to see significant investment in Biden’s budget proposal was in rebuilding the refugee resettlement program and improving our immigration and asylum processes. The proposal includes substantial funding to provide humane and proper care to unaccompanied minors, facilite family reunifications that occurred under the zero-tolerance policy of the previous administration, and support the resettlement of up to 125,000 refugees in FY 2023. The ERLC has long advocated for the United States to resume its global leadership in providing a place of refuge for the vulnerable and for the necessary investments in the refugee resettlement program infrastructure to support that goal. 

Additionally, the president’s budget proposal provides significant funds for improving border security and management while also addressing the significant backlogs in our immigration and asylum systems. One of the most notable developments in addressing these backlogs was an increase of $621 million over last year’s levels in funding for immigration courts, allowing for the hiring of 100 new immigration judges and support personnel. The ERLC supports efforts that make our asylum and immigration systems more fair, just, and humane, and these investments are important steps in that direction.

Fighting food insecurity and the opioid crisis

We were also glad to see the president’s budget proposal place an emphasis on addressing food insecurity and the opioid crisis. The proposal included significant funding for combating poverty-driven food insecurity as well as the opioid epidemic, particularly among veterans. Though increased funding does not always necessitate better outcomes, we affirm the president’s desire to promote human flourishing through combatting the vicious cycle of poverty and the devastating impact of opioid abuse. According to the president’s proposal, the drug overdose epidemic claimed over 100,000 lives in the last fiscal year. The drivers for this epidemic are complex, but the effects are simply tragic. This investment in the prevention of drug abuse, treatment, and recovery, particularly for our nation’s veterans, could be an important step for many families facing this tragedy across the country. 

What’s next?

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin the appropriations process which includes a hearing to discuss budget requests and writing and marking up the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Congress will therefore have the opportunity to include the Hyde Amendment and other important pro-life riders, as they did in FY 2022. 

Each year, the ERLC is actively engaged in the appropriations process, working alongside committee and leadership offices to ensure that important pro-life, religious liberty, and conscience protections are included and harmful policies are excluded. The ERLC will continuously advocate for the inclusion of these pro-life provisions as well as other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life around the world.