NAICU Washington Update

Senate Appropriators Clash Over Spending Levels

September 13, 2019

Despite the bipartisan budget deal agreed to before the August recess, Senate appropriators were unable to continue their comity as they began markups of the largest spending bills this week. After a nine-minute mark up of the Defense spending bill, which left Democrats unhappy about funds being moved to pay for border wall construction, the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee markup was abruptly canceled until further notice.
The original plan was for the Senate Appropriations Committee to have Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Energy, and State-Foreign Operations all completed this week. These are the four big bills the House passed together earlier this summer. 
The composition of the Senate education subcommittee has traditionally fostered a bipartisan approach to developing funding bills.  That approach has historically included strong support for the federal student aid programs, National Institutes of Health, and special education, among many other areas. 
Before the scheduled September 10 markup, Democrats were told that despite the $24 billion increase for all non-defense discretionary programs, the Labor-HHS-Education bill would be level-funded with FY 2019, which would be $11 billion below the amount included in the House-passed bill.
Rumors have surfaced that suggest the Senate bill in the works will provide mostly level funding for education programs, with a generous increase for NIH, to provide the room to negotiate middle ground funding levels for both sets of priorities when the House and Senate conference the bills.
Before the mark up, Democrats also pushed to include Title X family planning language in the bill, despite the handshake agreement as part of the budget deal not to include “poison pill” riders on spending bills.  Democrats argue that the language has been included in past bills with bipartisan support, and removed when conferenced with the House.  Meanwhile, Republicans argue that the language brings abortion issues to the forefront and would have the potential to be included by the House Democratic majority in conference.
The 2019 federal fiscal year ends on September 30, so Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution in the coming weeks to keep the government running until late November and to complete its work on the FY 2020 appropriations bills.

MORE News from NAICU