On September 13, a conference committee approved an appropriations package that funds the Departments of Defense and Labor Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) for fiscal year (FY) 2019 that begins on October 1. Most of The Arc’s priority programs were level funded or received slight increases and controversial policy riders have been removed. The Senate is expected to vote on final passage this week, and the House during the week of September 24. Funding levels for The Arc’s priority programs can be found here.
On August 23, the Senate passed the fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS-Ed) by a vote of 85-7. A number of amendments were passed to provide funding increases for select programs (such as school-based mental health services, opioid treatment, and child abuse prevention), but the bill did not include controversial policy riders. With only a few legislative days left before the midterm elections, the House is not expected to take up its Labor-HHS-Ed bill before then. A continuing resolution to keep the government funded through November or December is expected.
On June 16, the Committee report was posted for the bill that was passed the day before by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED). The report includes line item funding levels for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and shows that most of The Arc’s priority programs would be level funded, with a few seeing increases and one being cut. On June 28, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the L-HHS-ED funding bill. Like the House version, this bill funds most of The Arc’s priority programs at FY 2018 levels, but does not contain any cuts. See the proposed funding levels by the House and Senate here.
On June 20, the Senate failed to pass a rescissions package (H.R.3) by a vote of 48-50. This package would rescind $15.3 billion in appropriated funds, nearly half of which come from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The decision to rescind funding from CHIP could have destabilized the program and limited a state’s ability to respond to issues such as natural disaster, large layoffs due to plant closures, or an overall economic slowdown.
On June 21, the House Budget Committee approved a Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget Resolution. The budget calls for $6 trillion in cuts over a decade, which include Medicaid per capita caps and block grants, Medicare privatization, and repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The budget resolution contains “reconciliation instructions” that direct eleven committees to come up with at least $302 billion in savings over ten years. This target includes at least $20 billion from the Energy and Commerce Committee and $150 billion from the Ways and Means Committee, which have jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. A “reconciliation bill” that outlines how these cuts would be made would require only a simple majority (51) to pass in the Senate. The Senate Budget Committee may write its own FY 2019 Budget Resolution and it is unclear whether the full House will vote on this budget resolution. See The Arc’s statement on the Budget Committee’s passage of the measure here.
Rescissions are a process that the President may use to ask Congress to cut already appropriated spending. When the Administration makes the request Congress has 45 days to act. A simple majority of votes is needed in both the House and Senate to pass a rescissions bill. The House has passed a bill (H.R. 3) and the Senate must act by Friday June 22. H.R. 3 contains $15.3 billion worth of rescissions. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is targeted for nearly half of these rescissions, with nearly $7 billion in reductions. Earlier this year Congress, with strong bipartisan support, had extended the CHIP funding for 10 years. The decision to rescind funding from CHIP could destabilize the program and creates uncertainty if a state must respond to issues such as natural disaster, large layoffs due to plant closures, or an overall economic slowdown.
On June 15, a House Appropriations subcommittee approved the largest of the 12 annual nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending bills, the one that funds the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor, and related agencies (L-HHS-ED). The $177.1 billion measure for fiscal year (FY) 2019 does not include an increase over FY 2018 (unlike other NDD funding bills), setting up a contentious situation where select program increases come at the expense of other programs. In addition, disagreements over cuts to certain programs and politically divisive policy additions to the bill could derail the measure when it goes to the full House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. The Committee report with detailed line item funding amounts should be posted tomorrow.
On May 23, the House Appropriations Committee adopted allocations for its 12 subcommittees for fiscal year (FY) 2019 that starts on October 1. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) subcommittee – which funds the majority of disability related programs – received no increase from FY 2018. The following day, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted allocations for its subcommittees. The L-HHS-ED bill will get a $2.2 billion (1.2%) increase. The difference in allocations for the 12 subcommittees between the House and Senate make it more challenging for Congress to negotiate a final spending package though the regular process and increases the chances of using a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
As a result of the retirement of Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), there have been adjustments in committee membership and leadership. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is the new Chairman. Newly-appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) will serve the remainder of Sen. Cochran’s term as a member of the full Committee and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
On April 12, the House failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to pass legislation (H.J. Res. 2) proposing a constitutional balanced budget amendment (BBA). The vote was 233-184. Despite not passing in the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly wants to take up a balanced budget amendment in the Senate. See The Arc’s blog post on the Congressional BBA legislation here.
There is also concern about BBA efforts at the state level. Twenty-eight states have active BBA resolutions, only 6 short of the 34 needed to call a Constitutional Convention to pass a BBA. Supporters of a Constitutional Convention to pass a BBA plan to target Maine, Virginia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington state.