2019 Budget Bills
In order to complete a 2019 budget, Congress must pass twelve different spending bills by October 1. The House approach has been to bundle these bills into a handful of “minibus” spending packages. Below are summaries of two relevant minibus packages which are moving:
Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
The first minibus package, H.R. 5895 (115), which passed the House by a 235-179 vote, combines the Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Legislative Branch funding bills that had previously been approved by the House Appropriations Committee. The $147 billion House package includes increased funding for the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While the bill increases DOE funding overall, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive a significant $2 billion budget cut. The House bill also expedites repeal of the 2015 Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule, which is currently in the process of being withdrawn and replaced by the EPA. Of note in the VA section is increased funding for mental health services and homeless prevention services for veterans, as well as funding for veteran-focused opioid prevention and treatment programs.
After receiving the bill from the House, the Senate took up H.R. 5895 on June 18, deleting the substance of the bill and replacing it with its respective spending bills that had passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.
After a lengthy amendment process, the Senate passed the bill by an 86-5 vote on June 25, and the two chambers have since appointed conferees to begin the conference process for H.R. 5895.
Additionally, upon a motion by Sen. Cassidy (R-La) which was approved by a 95-4 vote, the conferees for H.R. 5895 (115) will be directed to include language extending the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for six months; the NFIP is currently slated to expire on July 31, 2018.
Health and Human Services
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 30-1 to approve $179.3 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The spending measure outlines funding levels for key federal programs and is the largest of the twelve annual appropriations bills considered by Congress each year.
The Senate bill increases or maintains funding levels for many of the health and human services resources counties use to ensure the well-being of residents.
For FY 2019, the Senate bill would allocate $90.1 billion for HHS, an increase of $2.3 billion above FY 2018 funding levels. The bulk of this funding would go toward the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which would receive $39.1 billion under the bill, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which would be funded at $7.9 billion.
Much of the FY 2019 appropriations for NIH and CDC would support research, prevention and education activities, including opioid overdose prevention and surveillance activities, as well as a public awareness campaign.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which plans and operates community-based services for people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders, would also receive increased funding for FY 2019. The State Opioid Response Grant would receive $1.5 billion, with a 15 percent allotment for states with the highest rate of opioid-related overdoses. The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant would also receive $1.9 billion for FY 2019, consistent with FY 2018 funding. These programs focus on opioid prevention activities and direct resources in accordance with local needs.
In addition to these health-focused programs, several human services programs administered under HHS would receive increased or level funding for FY 2019. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary federal funding source supporting child care for low-income families, would be funded at $5.2 billion for FY 2019, consistent with funding for the previous fiscal year.
For early childhood education, the Senate legislation builds on increased funding outlined in the FY 2018 omnibus package to make further investments in Head Start and would allocate $10.1 billion for the program FY 2019. Head Start ensures the educational, nutritional and social services supports for pre-school children.
The full Senate must vote on the health and human services appropriations bill; however, it remains unclear when that will occur. The House is also considering a companion measure, which currently contains significant differences with the Senate bill related to education programs and immigration. Both the House and Senate would eventually have to resolve differences between their respective packages before the legislation can be combined with other appropriations measures and sent to the president for his signature.