Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees May 23 and May 24, respectively, met to formally set funding levels, or 302(b) allocations, for all 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2019. While both chambers adhere to the topline $1.244 trillion discretionary spending cap established by the February budget deal [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 9], individual bill allocations differed between the two committees.
The House committee approved the allocation for the Labor-Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS) spending bill on a 29-22 party line vote, leaving overall funding available to the subcommittee unchanged from FY 2018, at $177.1 billion. Democrats expressed concern over the allocation, with Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) cautioning, “Providing no increase for the Labor-H bill could starve our schools, hurt job training and workplace rights protection, jeopardize Pell Grants, and limit access to affordable health care, among many other ill effects.”
Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.), however, pointed out that the funding for programs in the spending bill received a substantial increase in FY 2018, and also acknowledged that the Senate allocation was likely to be higher. “It’s a little early to hit the alarm bells,” he noted.
By contrast, the Senate committee adopted its allocations unanimously, 31-0, the following day. For the L-HHS spending bill, the committee provides a total of $179.3 billion for FY 2019, approximately $2 billion more than both the FY 2018 enacted level and the House FY 2019 allocation.
In praising the bipartisan nature of the Senate allocations compared to the House approach, Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) noted, “It is not the allocation that I would have written on my own, and I suspect it is not the allocation you would have written on your own, but that is the nature of compromise.”
At the markups, the committees also formally adopted allocations for the other 11 spending bills, including the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) bill. The House increased funding for the MilCon-VA bill by $4.4 billion to a total of $96 billion, consistent with the FY 2019 spending bill the committee approved April 26 [see Washington Highlights, April 27]. The Senate allocated $97.1 billion for MilCon-VA, an additional $1.1 billion over the House allocation and $5.5 billion more than the FY 2018 enacted level. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up its version of the FY 2019 MilCon-VA bill during the week of June 4.