CHN: Congress Avoids a Shutdown while FY20 Bills Move in the Senate

With only a few days to spare, the Senate on Sept. 26 passed (81-16) a stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, to avoid a government shutdown, and President Trump signed the bill on September 27. The House had passed (301-123) the CR on Sept. 19; three Democrats opposed it and 76 Republicans supported it. The measure (H.R. 4378) will keep the government funded through from Oct. 1 – the start of the new fiscal year – through Nov. 21.

Most government agencies and programs will see flat FY19 funding levels during this time; a few so-called ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, were included for select programs. One such anomaly was included for the 2020 Census, which needs additional funding at the beginning of the fiscal year to stay on target for the mandated decennial count. According to CQ, the CR would allow the Census Bureau to be apportioned money “up to the rate for operations necessary to maintain the schedule and deliver the required data.” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) was joined by 24 other senators in instead urging appropriators to include full-year funding for the Census Bureau ($8.175 billion, including $7.5 billion for the 2020 Census) up front as part of the CR. The CR also includes a package of health care-related extensions of programs funding community health centers, continued authority for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and an extension of the enhanced Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories through November 21.

In addition to the CR to keep the government temporarily funded, Senate appropriators have spent much of the past few weeks working on their chamber’s versions of FY20 spending bills to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. On Sept. 12, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the topline spending levels for each of its subcommittees, known as 302(b) allocations. These funding levels were opposed by Democrats on the Committee, who objected to inadequate funding for Labor-HHS-Education programs (see below), and too much money for the border wall and anti-immigrant enforcement.  The 302(b) allocations were approved in Committee with a party-line vote, in contrast to previous years’ bipartisanship. Since then, the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed 10 of the 12 FY20 bills to date, though none has reached the Senate floor.

One bill that has made it through the full Senate Appropriations Committee is the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bill. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the Senate appropriations bill provides modest funding increases for affordable housing programs. Overall, the bill provides HUD programs with more than $11.9 billion above President Trump’s FY20 request and $2.3 billion above FY19 enacted levels. The bill fails, however, to include legislative language approved in the House version that would halt cruel proposals from the president to evict mixed-status families from assisted housing and to roll back LGBT protections. For additional details on the Senate spending bill, see NLIHC’s full analysis and updated budget chart.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed its Agriculture spending bill. According to Committee Democrats, the bill provides full funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and provides $245 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides seniors with healthy and nutritious home-delivered food.  The President’s budget proposed to eliminate this program.

One bill that has not yet made it through the Committee is the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (“Labor-H”) bill. Advocates expressed concern that the Senate Appropriations Committee’s 302(b) allocations for some areas – including those covered by the Labor-H bill – are too low and would cause harm to human needs programs. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Senate appropriations bill funding these departments would be cut 1.4 percent below its inflation-adjusted 2019 level, a cut of $2.7 billion. The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, would receive an inflation-adjusted funding increase of 4.3 percent, or $2.1 billion.

The House of Representatives has already passed 10 of the 12 required FY20 spending bills, but these were passed before a bipartisan budget deal was agreed to by both the House and Senate; the topline spending levels in the budget deal were lower than the spending levels in many of the House bills. For more information on the House version of spending bills, see the July 1 Human Needs Report.

Budget and Appropriations