The Senate agreed Aug. 15 by unanimous consent to begin debate on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) spending bill. The debate is the first time this bill has been considered on the Senate floor since 2007.
Specifically, lawmakers will combine text of the Labor-HHS bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee June 28 (S. 3158, S. Rept. 115-289) [see Washington Highlights, June 29] into a minibus package with the Senate’s FY 2019 Defense spending bill (S. 3159), as a substitute to text of the House-passed Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 6157).
The majority of full Senate debate on the two-bill package will take place the week of Aug. 20 as the Senate considers amendments to the funding bills.
The Ad Hoc Group For Medical Research, convened by the AAMC, submitted a letter Aug. 16 asking all senators for their support of the bill’s $39.1 billion funding level for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as included in the Appropriations Committee-approved bill.
Meanwhile, the White House issued an Aug. 15 Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) criticizing that the bill’s non-defense spending exceeds the president’s FY 2019 budget request by $11.8 billion. Echoing sentiments the administration included in a July 16 letter to appropriators, the SAP also expresses concern over other deviations from the president’s request, including proposals to consolidate three agencies within the NIH, to fund within NIH the Research Policy Board established in the 21st Century Cures Act, and to defund several of the Title VII and Title VIII health professions programs.
The SAP does not, however, issue a veto threat for the spending package, nor does it indicate the president’s support. Once Senate consideration of the minibus concludes, attention will turn to the House for next steps. Though the House approved its Defense spending bill June 28, the chamber’s version of the Labor-HHS bill (H.R. 6470, H.Rept. 115-862) still awaits consideration by the full House [see Washington Highlights, July 13].