On Thursday the House Subcommittee on Appropriations for the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) approved a bill that reduces spending below current year funding and attaches a number of provisions the President would reject.

Overall the bill provides $161.6 billion which is a cut of $569 million below this year.  It is also $2.8 billion below the Administration request.  The total funds all three departments and includes the Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance program.

Gainers in the House process include the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which receives a $1.25 billion increase to more than $33 billion with lesser increases to special education and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).  The losers include the Labor Department with restrictions on certain labor law provisions, the ACA with funding cuts and Family Planning services with further cuts.

The Subcommittee is holding further detail of the budget until it is taken up by the full appropriations committee on Wednesday. It will go nowhere in Congress and likely won’t even get to the House floor.  The bill, whether or not it goes any further, will likely serve as a negotiation piece likely after the election.

Congress will be acting on an omnibus appropriations bill even if it has not been publically stated.  The only question is when they will pass such a bill and how long it will run.  Some more conservative elements would prefer aa bill that is flat-funded that runs into March 2017.  Others (including some Republicans) would like a bill that extends into early December.

It is now almost twenty years since the Congress last passed all appropriations bills by the start of the fiscal year. In 1996 Congress sent an omnibus bill that combined 6 appropriations bills (including Labor-HHS) on September 30, 1996, a little more than a month before the re-election of President Bill Clinton.  An additional seven appropriations bills (there were 13 bills instead of 12) were sent to the President before September 30.  There are extremely few members of Congress who were in office in 1996, the last time Congress met the deadline of passing appropriations by the start of the fiscal year.

The break starts at the end of this week and will run through Labor Day.  It is expected that there will be limited days in September with the occasional rumor that the House might wrap all work up this month and not come back in September.  All of this is a result of the nervousness of an especially volatile election year.

The Senate has passed all 12 bills through Appropriations Committee with the Energy and Water and the Military Construction bills passing the full Senate.  The House of Representatives has passed the Defense, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction bills while the remaining bills passed through the Committee (if the planned Labor-HHS vote on Wednesday takes place.)

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a Labor-HHS-Education bill in early June but that chamber’s action has also come to a halt.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) did well in that chamber receiving a $2 billion boost for the second straight year.   The Committee provided an increase in substance use funding to address opioids use.  Various programs increased by $126 million to $261 million.  The key child welfare programs however, remained flat.

The substance use funding was provided through a $28 million increase under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to target overuse of prescription drugs.  Another $49 million was given to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) for treatment and $50 million was provided to Community Centers for treatment.

In terms of child welfare there was no increase in funding for CAPTA state grants, left at $25.3 million, CAPTA discretionary funding at $ 33 million, Adoption Opportunities ($ 39 million), Adoption Incentives ($37.9 million) and Child Welfare Services ($269 million) Promoting Safe and Stable Families actually loses $20 million in court funding pending a reauthorization which must be done by October 1.  PSSSF discretionary funding stayed at $59 million.  The court funds are based on a complex mandatory budget scoring calculation and will be lost if Congress does not fund new federal dollars to keep it flat-funded.

The Committee was able to move some funding around under relatively frozen caps by tapping into a surplus that exits under the college student Pell grants program.  Pell Grants are funded under a combination of annual appropriations and some mandatory funding.  Students apply and can receive a maximum grant of approximately $5600 per year adjusted by income.  In years when Congress does not appropriate enough they make up for the shortfall in the next year.  In this case there was a carry over or surplus.   Much of the increase however did not help children’s programs and instead assisted in the NIH increase.

You can find the funding levels for key child welfare and children’s program with this CWLA 2017 budget chart.