Both the House and Senate the week of Sept. 10 passed the first spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2019 as a three-bill minibus containing the Energy and Water, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA), and Legislative Branch bills. The minibus was the result of a conference committee agreement to H.R. 5895 reached between the House and Senate [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 7].
Of note, the FY 2019 MilCon-VA bill includes:
- An additional $750 million for the Medical Services account, totaling $49.9 billion for FY 2019, a 6.5% increase over FY 2018 as well as $51.4 billion in advance appropriations for FY 2020;
- An additional $1 billion for the Medical Community Care account, totaling $9.4 billion for FY 2019, a decrease of 4.5% from FY 2018 and $10.8 billion in advance appropriations for FY 2020; and
- $779 million for the VA Medical and Prosthetic Research Program, a $57 million (7.9%) increase over FY 2018, including $27 million over five years for a collaboration with Department of Energy to enhance computing and biomedical imaging.
The Senate Sept. 13 voted 92-5 and the House Sept. 14 voted 377-20 to pass the jointly agreed-upon spending package. In statements following passage, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) thanked his colleagues for their bipartisan efforts, adding, “If we continue to work together in a bipartisan manner we can successfully fund nearly 90% of the federal government on time through regular order – something Congress has not been able to do in many years.”
Senate Committee Vice Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) noted that the MilCon-VA bill “includes significant new investments in mental health and opioid abuse treatment, including $1 billion in new funding over fiscal year 2017 levels for mental health care programs and suicide prevention.”
The three spending bills now await the President’s signature. Congress has until Sept. 30 to pass the remaining nine funding bills before the start of the new fiscal year (see related story).