On Thursday, August 23, the Senate passed H.R. 6157 an $857 billion appropriations package that combines the Defense Department appropriations with the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 7. Now the bill will likely go to a House-Senate conference committee where they will have to act fast before the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Some feel that the Senate approved bill should have some advantage in the negotiation because the full Senate approved its bill in overwhelming fashion while the House voted their Labor-HHS bill out of Committee on a partisan basis. That will be important since the House bill is laden-down with controversial amendments restricting immigration, family planning funding restrictions and has the objectionable Alderholt amendment restricting states on the recruitment of foster and adoptive.

The Senate, with this bill and a series of appropriations, has been led by an agreement between Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to avoid the “poison pill” amendments that are so controversial they would bring legislating to a halt. In this case that meant staying away from topics mentioned such as elimination of planned parenthood funding cuts (although an amendment was offered—see below) no immigration amendments and no amendments such as Aderholt’s amendment which has at least 40 senators on record in opposition.

Some feel the odds on the legislation making it to the White House, with just 11 working days left for House and Senate lawmakers to merge opposing versions of the bills as a long shot. That may be shaped on whether both sides see political advantage in getting it done before the election.

Over 300 amendments had been filed when bill debate started in the Senate but over fifty were worked into negotiated manager’s package. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) did get their vote on an amendment to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood but it received only 48 votes well short of the 60 that would have been needed to cutoff a filibuster.

HHS would see a $2.3 billion boost, including a 5.4 percent increase for the National Institutes of Health. Education programs would get a $541 million boost, while the Labor Department’s budget would remain at the same 2018 levels. One of the negotiations between the House and Senate will be the top line funding for the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations. The Senate bill is at approximately $181 billion while the House is at $178 billion.

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations and the House Appropriations bills have their differences in funding. In their bill, the House has not been as supportive of some child welfare funding. The Senate and House bills include continued funding for CAPTA Plans of Safe Care and funds the state grants at $85 million. An amendment by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) was adopted on the floor that seeks an additional $10 million for CAPTA state grants likely tied to better enforcement of child sexual abuse reporting. The Senate continues the increase in Adoption-Kinship Incentive funds at the elevated level of $75 million first increased in the March-2018 appropriations while the House sets that at $80 million. The Senate continues to provide an extra $20 million for the Regional Partnership Grants (RPGs) this time for expanded family-based substance abuse treatment while the House does not. The Senate also continues funding for $20 million in Kinship Navigator programs. These grants were also included in the March 2018 appropriations. It is a unique fund in that it will continue to go to all 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as the Tribal communities that are drawing down their own Title IV-E foster care funds. It too is designed to expand the base of practice and models that will be eligible for the Family First Act funding. The House does not include that funding. For a chart comparison look here.