CHN: Congress Passes Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2008
The final days of the first session of Congress came to a close with passage of a $555 billion omnibus appropriations bill, H.R. 2764, that provides funding for 11 of the 12 spending bills Congress must pass each year. (The bill funding the Pentagon’s regular budget, not including the wars, passed earlier.) In order to avoid a presidential veto of the omnibus bill, Congress trimmed over-all spending in bills it had passed and added $70 billion in unrestricted funding for the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. H.R. 2764 passed the Senate 76-17 on December 18. On December 19, the House passed the bill 272-142 with all but one ‘no’ vote coming from Democrats, many who objected to the unrestricted war funding. The President is expected to sign the bill.
The end result of a year-long battle came down to the President having enough Republicans in Congress willing to vote against spending bills supported by the majority in Congress. In November, the House came within a few votes of overriding the President’s veto of the Labor-HHS-Education funding bill. (See:http://www.chn.org/humanneeds/071113a.html.)
While disappointed that more funding was not provided for domestic human needs programs, advocates were pleased that some of the programs they’ve been fighting for received funding well above the President’s request. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program funded at $2.57 billion exceeds the President’s level by $788 million. The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program that serves nutritious foods to pregnant women, babies, and young children will receive enough funding to support the anticipated WIC caseload. At the President’s funding level the number of those served would have been severely reduced.
The President proposed eliminating the Community Services Block Grant program which funds community action programs and other agencies that provide home energy aid, weatherization, job training, transportation, and/or administer Head Start programs and other services. The bill adds funding above FY ’07 adjusted for inflation. The omnibus bill maintains the current funding level for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) which funds child care, foster care and other child welfare services, meals on wheels, adult day services for the elderly, and other services. The President proposed slashing SSBG funding by $500 million. Education for disadvantaged students, special education, job training, Section 8 housing, community health centers, Pell Grants, and Head Start all did better in the final bill than in the President’s budget.
Funding for many other human needs programs continue the erosion begun by cuts in 2002. Advocates will continue to fight to reverse these cuts when funding for FY ’09 begins early next year.
For more information on funding levels for programs in FY ’08 see:http://www.chn.org/pdf/2007/FY08LaborHfinalpres.pdf