The House Committee on the Budget April 3 approved, 19-17, the Investing for the People Act of 2019 (H.R. 2021), which would raise discretionary spending caps above the levels set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) for defense and nondefense programs in fiscal years (FYs) 2020 and 2021. Three committee Democrats joined all Republican committee members in voting against the legislation. The committee rejected all six amendments that were considered during the markup.
Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) April 2 introduced the legislation, which would apply the parity principle in raising both defense and nondefense spending by equal amounts. Under the legislation, the revised nondefense cap for FY 2020 would be to $631 billion (+$34 billion or +5.7% over FY 2019), and the defense cap for 2020 at $664 billion (+$33 billion, or +2.6% over FY 2019). If the spending caps in current statute remain in place, nondefense discretionary spending will be $542 billion for FY 2020, a decrease of $55 billion (-9.2%) from FY 2019.
In his opening statement, Chairman Yarmuth shared the importance of the legislation to raise “sequestration caps to stop extreme cuts from being implemented.” He continued, “If Congress doesn’t establish new caps this year, all discretionary programs will take a 10% hit. This will result in devastating cuts to important programs and services that millions of Americans need — including improving public health, providing education and job training, caring for our veterans, investing in infrastructure, and promoting a strong economy.”
Several Committee Republicans agreed that the budget caps needed to be lifted for FY 2020. However, all Republican members of the Committee disagreed with the Democrats’ approach to address only discretionary spending, rather than offering a budget resolution more broadly.
A few committee Democrats argued that under the legislation, too much of the newly proposed discretionary spending would support defense spending.
While the bill is expected to be considered on the House Floor the week of April 8, its prospects in the Senate are unclear. House and Senate leaders reportedly have been engaged in discussions about opportunities to raise the discretionary spending caps, but press reports suggest that the White House is reluctant to increase discretionary spending above the levels proposed in the president’s FY 2020 budget request.
The AAMC signed an April 2 letter with nearly 850 organizations urging lawmakers to work in a bipartisan fashion to quickly develop an agreement to raise spending caps for discretionary programs, emphasizing the importance of non-defense discretionary programs to the American economy.
The AAMC also April 1 signed a letter with 550 organizations urging Appropriations Committee leadership in both chambers to “significantly boost the [FY] 2020 allocation for [the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies] Subcommittee to address vital and long-neglected needs” of the programs funded through that appropriations bill. Many federal agencies and programs that support work at medical schools and teaching hospitals fall under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, including the National Institutes of Health, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Title VII health professions and Title VIII nursing workforce development programs, and the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program at the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Workforce.