After two weeks spent debating hundreds of amendments, the House passed a $1.23 trillion omnibus spending bill on September 14 to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year (FY 2018). The bill included significant increases in defense spending and cuts in non-defense spending. The bill is not expected to pass the Senate because it exceeds base discretionary spending caps for Defense programs established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 by approximately $72 billion. A budget agreement to change the spending caps would be needed to avoid across-the-board spending cuts (known as a sequester). In addition, the House bill includes $1.6 billion for the controversial border wall with Mexico and many other controversial policy riders such as limitations on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The House and Senate will have to negotiate a spending bill before December 8 when the current continuing resolution expires in order to avoid a government funding shutdown.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) released the Senate continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government from the end of the current CR (March 27) through the end of the fiscal year. Since the Senate CR does not address the across-the-board cuts, the measure includes a very small increase from 2012 for most programs allowed under the Budget Control Act, which are then to be cut by approximately 5% for FY 2013.
The Senate voted early Saturday morning to pass a six-month spending bill and sent it on to the President to sign. The Continuing Resolution (CR) would fund the government through March 27, 2013 and increase spending by 0.6% for most federal programs and agencies. The bill incorporates the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending level set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (PL 112-25) rather than the lower $1.028 trillion level desired by the House. Most disability-related programs would receive the small 0.6% increase over the amount they received in 2012 (Visit The Arc’s website to see the FY 2012 funding levels).
On September 13, the House of Representatives passed (H J Res 117), a “clean” six-month stopgap spending bill. The Senate is expected to complete action on the measure this week. The Continuing Resolution (CR) would fund the government through March 27 and increase spending by 0.6% for most federal programs and agencies. The bill incorporates the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending level set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (PL 112-25) rather than the lower $1.028 trillion level desired by the House. Most disability-related programs would receive the small 0.6% increase over the amount they received in 2012 (Visit The Arc’s website to see the FY 2012 funding levels). Of note, the CR also includes an extension of the highly qualified teacher amendment (HQT amendment) for just one year rather than two. Under the HTQ amendment, teachers who are participating in alternative teacher preparation programs and are still in training can be called highly qualified. These teachers are disproportionately assigned to students with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. The CR also includes a requirement that the Secretary of Education submit a report to Congress that includes information on the number of students with disabilities that are taught by teachers who are deemed highly qualified.
A deal to fund the federal government from October 1, 2012 through March 1, 2013 under a Continuing Resolution was announced by Senate leadership, House leadership, and President Obama early last week. Although the agreement is still being drafted, it is expected to follow the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending limit agreed to under the Budget Control Act. The deal was announced almost two months before the end of the fiscal year. Congressional leaders have stated they plan to take up the bill in September.
The House passed H.R. 5972, its Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (T-HUD) spending bill on June 29. It maintained funding for the Section 811 Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities program at $165 million, 9% above the President’s Budget Request of $150 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s T-HUD Subcommittee had marked up its spending bill, S. 2322, on April 17th. The Senate bill provided $150 million for the 811. No date has been set for the full Senate to vote on the bill.
Despite Congress’ actions on FY 2013 appropriations bills, they are unlikely to be enacted due to the different spending limits between the House and Senate. The House is working with the $1.028 billion limit set by the House Budget Resolution, while the Senate is using the higher $1.047 billion limit set by the Budget Control Act. Instead, one or more continuing resolution is anticipated to keep the federal government operating into the beginning of the fiscal year which begins on October 1, 2012.
The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) Appropriations Subcommittee quickly marked up and passed S. 3295, the L-HHS-ED bill, along party lines. The full Senate Appropriations Committee followed two days later, passing the bill along party lines by a vote of 16 to 14. The bill provides level funding for most disability-related discretionary programs, and included a few increases over the amounts requested in the President’s Budget. Highlights of the spending bill include:
- IDEA —The bill provides $11.678 billion, an increase of $100 million, under section 611 of part B grants to States for educating students with disabilities between the age of 3 and 21. The bill also includes $463 million, an increase of $20 million, to support statewide systems of coordinated and early intervention services for children with disabilities two years old and younger, as well as their families.
- Respite – The bill includes $4.9 million for the Lifespan Respite Care program, nearly double the amount this program received in FY 2012.
- Assistive Technology—The bill provides $37.5 million, an increase of $4.7 million, for State assistive technology programs. These programs support a range of activities to serve people with disabilities, including State financing programs, device reutilization and loan programs, and device demonstrations.
- Disability Hearings at the Social Security Administration (SSA)—The bill includes $11.736 billion, a $290 million increase, for SSA’s administrative expenses. This increase will support SSA’s efforts to eliminate the disability hearings backlog by the end of fiscal year 2013.
- Promoting School Readiness for Minors in SSI (PROMISE)—In FY 2012, Congress created PROMISE, an interagency effort to improve outcomes for children, and the families of children, receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. PROMISE was created to encourage State-level innovations that can help young people with disabilities enter and succeed in competitive, integrated employment. The bill includes nearly $12 million and the authority to allocate unspent vocational rehabilitation State grant funds within the Department of Education for this effort, in addition to $7.2 million at SSA.
Despite the Senate action, this specific bill is unlikely to be enacted due to the differences between the House and Senate. The House Appropriations Committee is working with the $1.028 billion limit set by the “Ryan Budget” while the Senate is using the higher $1.047 billion limit set by the Budget Control Act. Instead, one or more continuing resolution is anticipated to keep the federal government operating into the beginning of the fiscal year which begins on October 1, 2012.
Appropriations bills continue to move forward despite the different spending limits being used by the House and Senate. The House Appropriations Committee is working with the $1.028 billion limit set by the House Budget Resolution while the Senate is using the higher $1.047 billion limit established by the Budget Control Act. This indicates that Congress is unlikely to enact all spending bills before Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 begins on October 1. Instead, one or more continuing resolutions will likely keep the federal government operating into the beginning of the fiscal year.
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (THUD) marked up draft legislation to make FY 2013 appropriations for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and related agencies. The bill sets HUD program funding levels generally in line with the Administration’s budget request for FY 2013, with some exceptions. These include lower funding for public housing and homeless assistance, and somewhat higher funding for the HOME and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). It also provides $165 million for the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program, a $15 million increase over the Administration’s request.
The House THUD Appropriations bill provides a total of $10.472 billion for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) programs. Given that the current authorization for federal public transit and highway programs is ongoing, the House maintains spending for all Highway Trust Fund/Mass Transit Account contract authority programs at FY 2012 levels. The bill also provides Amtrak with $50 million for compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.