CHN: Ideological Buttons Pushed in House Subcommittee’s Labor-HHS-Education Funding Bill

If the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill is often a vehicle for right wing ideology, this year it’s a monster truck, not a Mini-Cooper.  The FY 2013 spending bill approved by the House Labor-HHS-Ed Appropriations Subcommittee (draft bill DHAPPS 1308) on July 18 de-funds the health care law, piles on many anti-labor restrictions,  eliminates funding for family planning, prohibits needle exchanges (used to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission), and would stop the Obama Administration from requiring assessments of the effectiveness of for-profit technical education programs.  The bill prohibits the Administration’s Healthy Foods Financing Initiative, in which combined strategies through the Treasury, HHS, and the Department of Agriculture encourage more stores to sell healthy foods in low-income communities termed “food deserts.”  It even bans the use of NIH funds for economic research on topics such as health disparities by income or race.
The House subcommittee bill, which passed mostly along party lines, is not at this point expected to be taken up by the full Appropriations Committee or by the full House as a separate bill. Most analysts believe that Congress will not get final agreement on spending bills before funding runs out on September 30, and will instead pass a combined stopgap measure to extend funding to some point past the election.

The subcommittee provides $150 billion in funding for FY 2013, $6.8 billion below the enacted level for FY 2012 and $8.8 billion less than the Senate’s Labor-HHS-Ed bill (S. 3295) and the President’s proposal.  Both the Senate and the President provide funds at the level enacted last August in deficit reduction legislation (the Budget Control Act; seeHuman Needs Report, August 9, 2011 for a description of that law).  The House decided to go lower.  However, there have been a number of reports that House members will ultimately agree to the higher Senate totals for appropriations at least on a temporary basis to postpone final decisions till the next Congress.

The bill makes much of its savings by eliminating funds for the Affordable Care Act (the health insurance reform recently upheld by the Supreme Court), said by Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) to cut $8.6 billion in FY 2013 and $123 billion over 10 years.  The health care law is not the only source for cuts, however.  The Department of Labor would receive $497 million less than this year’s funding; Health and Human Services is funded at $1.3 billion less than the current year; the Department of Education would receive $1.1 billion less.

According to an analysis by the House committee’s Democratic minority, the bill would cut substance abuse and mental health programs $324 million below FY 2012 funding.  It would cut teen pregnancy prevention programs by $93 million, and transfer $20 million of the remaining $40 million to abstinence education, which research has shown to be ineffective at pregnancy prevention.  The bill eliminates the Obama Administration’s education reform initiative Race to the Top, which provided $549 million in grants to school systems this year.  Family planning funding under Title X is eliminated.  Title X provides health care services including cancer screenings and contraceptives for low-income women.

Among other cuts, the bill would reduce Job Corps funding from $1.7 billion in FY 2012 to $1.57 billion in FY 2013.  It cuts the Ryan White AIDS funding by $47.6 million (down from $2.39 billion this year).  The President’s budget proposed to increase Ryan White funds to $2.47 billion.  Refugee and Entrant Assistance is reduced from $768.3 million to $658.2 million (the President proposed increasing this funding to $805 million).  The Social Services Block Grant is reduced from $1.785 billion to $1.7 billion. The bill also eliminates Americorps, Vista, and most other programs under the Corporation for National and Community Service, leaving funds only for the National Senior Volunteer Program.

The House subcommittee bill does maintain or increase funding in key areas.  It increases Head Start funding by $45 million (up from $7.968 billion in FY 2012); child care appropriations rise by nearly $25 million (from $2.278b in FY 2012).  In both these early childhood programs, the President’s proposal provided somewhat higher increases.  It maintains home heating and cooling assistance for low-income households at $3.47 billion (the President had proposed cutting LIHEAP down to $2.82 billion).  The subcommittee budget also keeps the same funding for the Community Services Block Grant ($677.4 million), which the President’s FY 2013 proposal would have cut to $350 million.  Education for children with disabilities (IDEA) funding rises to $13.1 billion, from nearly $12.4 billion in FY 2012.

The policy prohibitions in the draft bill provide ideological and partisan red meat to some of the House’s most right wing members.  There are several anti-labor provisions.  One would prohibit the Department of Labor from finalizingregulations covering home care workers working for home care agencies with minimum wage and overtime protections from which they are currently excluded.  Over 19,000 comments in favor of extending these protections were received by DOL when it published draft regulations.  The bill would prevent the Administration from doing further work on rules to improve the prevention of Black Lung disease among coal miners, who are experiencing a resurgence of the disease.  The bill would ban new agriculture child labor protections.

The bill seeks to end the Administration’s efforts to require post-secondary programs to disclose their students’ graduation and job placement rates and to withhold federal student loan participation in institutions that load up students with unsustainable debt with large risk that they will not have earnings adequate to repay their loans.

The Senate Labor-HHS-Ed bill does provide funding for the new health care law, and does not contain the policy riders described above.  It funds home energy assistance and the Community Services Block Grant at current levels, also rejecting the reductions proposed by the President, and similarly increases child care and Head Start.

While the likeliest outcome in the near term will be temporary funding at the Senate level, it is not clear whether House members will fight hard to include at least some of the policy riders in the appropriations agreement.

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Early Childhood Education
Education and Youth Policy
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