CHN: House Spending Panel Passes Labor-HHS-Education Bill with Amendments on Migrant Family Separations

The House Appropriations Committee passed (30-22) its version of the FY19 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H) appropriations bill on July 11. The largest nondefense spending bill totals $177 billion and would provide a $43 million increase for the Department of Education (essentially flat funding for the department’s $71 billion budget), a $1 billion increase for the Department of Health and Human Services to $89.2 billion, and an $88.8 million decrease for the Labor Department to $12.1 billion. Democrats argued that as nondefense discretionary (annually-appropriated) spending is set to increase by $18 billion for FY19 under a budget deal Congress passed earlier this year, the Labor-H bill should get at least $5 billion of that increase; instead, the House measure totals roughly the same as last year.

During a contentious 13-hour debate and markup of the bill, the House committee adopted 12 amendments related to families separated at the border, including amendments requiring HHS to report to Congress on a plan to swiftly reunify separated families, expressing the sense of Congress that families should not be separated and should be immediately reunited, and funding mental health services for children separated from their parents. Advocates were pleased these amendments passed, but they were disheartened that the committee also passed an amendment overriding a long-standing court consent decree, known as the Flores decision, that required a limit of 20 days’ detention for families. This amendment, which would allow migrant children to be held in unlicensed family detention facilities indefinitely, was supported by all Republicans on the committee as well as Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX); all other Democrats voted against it. An amendment requiring the Trump Administration to comply with court orders mandating reunification of children separated from their parents failed, as did one to direct $10 million for gun violence prevention research. An amendment that would cut 15 percent of federal adoption funding to states and localities that penalize faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that refuse to place children in families that conflict with the agencies’ religious beliefs passed nearly along party lines; Republican Rep. Scott Taylor joined all Democrats in opposing it. For more information on what’s in the House Labor-H bill, see the June 19 Human Needs Report, the Republican summary, and the statement made by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the subcommittee’s highest ranking Democrat.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed (30-1) its bipartisan version of the Labor-H spending bill on June 28. While advocates are generally pleased with the Senate bill and its lack of partisan policy changes known as riders, they contend that the overall spending level for the three departments should be higher than the $2.2 billion increase over FY 2018 provided, given the size and importance of the departments. For more information on what’s in the Senate Labor-H bill, see the July 2 Human Needs Report.

Some members of Congress have been considering pairing the Labor-H bill with the Department of Defense appropriations bill and moving them together on the House and Senate floors. These two bills are typically the top priorities of Democrats and Republicans, respectively.

Budget and Appropriations
Education and Youth Policy
Labor and Employment