The Senate unveiled their Labor-HHS-Education appropriations legislation last Wednesday, September 18, 2019 and it shorts human services severely. Gone are the increases for child care, Head Start, CAPTA state grants, CB-CAP child abuse prevention funds and many other vital human services.

While there was always an understanding that many of the House increases could not be sustained at the same level when they negotiated their differences with the Senate, the bill released was more extreme. The budget deal reached before the August break for FY 2020 and FY 2021, established new higher caps on defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding, with non-defense spending set at $621.5 billion, or $24.5 billion more than the 2019 cap level (a 4.1 percent increase). The new allocation does not take into account the effects of inflation or one-time expenses such as the increased cost of the census and according to a calculation by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities the non-defense funds available in 2020 are $11.4 billion higher than the inflation-adjusted 2019 level, or a 1.8 percent increase. A further analysis by the Center of the Senate allocation indicates that funding the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor would be cut 1.5 percent below its inflation-adjusted 2019 level, a cut of $3.0 billion.”

This is because, in-part, the Senate is looking for funds for the US-Mexico wall the President wants. The Administration just recently took $3.6 billion from the Military Construction appropriations to fund some of the wall costs but they want more. In addition, the Pentagon is now complaining that the construction cuts threaten some vital military preparedness. If Congress makes up for the Military Construction transfers the appropriations for the Military Construction bill is considered part of the “non-defense” spending category.

The Senate was attempting to take their Labor-HHS bill directly to the floor and bypass the committee process. It is all but certain that the Congress will pass a continuing resolution before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. The House is expected to act by the end of next week with the Senate expected to follow shortly after. The CR is expected to be level funding without any controversial policies attached. It should will run until the November 22. The presumption is that they will have appropriations completed by then, but some outside observers feel there could be a government shutdown, a second CR and/or a final deal shortly before the end-of-year holidays.