CHN: Labor-HHS-Education Bill Must Clear One Last Hurdle

Funding for many health, education, and social service programs for fiscal 2006 has still not been approved by Congress, although the fiscal year started October 1. Earlier this year both the House and Senate approved their own version of the bill funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. But the bill that emerged from conference was rejected by the House on November 17 (H.R. 3010). The programs are currently being funded under a continuing resolution (CR) which expires December 17.
The failure of the final conference agreement was a surprise to House leaders. All Democrats and 22 Republicans rejected the bill. Several Republican lawmakers voted no because their special projects had been eliminated. In addition, Democrats and some Republicans were concerned about cuts to rural health funding and education programs and the lack of increase for home energy assistance in the face of rising energy costs.

The bill includes $142.5 billion in discretionary funding, $329 million less than last year’s level. Several human needs services, such as mental health, child care, Title I education, workforce training and others are funded at levels not adjusted for inflation, or below last year’s level.

But the cuts contained in the legislation are not the end of the story. It is widely expected that Congress will approve an across-the-board cut, which would affect all discretionary programs (those that must be approved each year). The across-the-board cut, which could be in the neighborhood of one or two percent, would be attached to the only other unfinished appropriations bill — the one funding the Department of Defense. For an explanation of how such an across-the-board cut may harm human needs programs, see a recent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report.

In coming days negotiators will try once again to come up with a final Labor-HHS-Education bill that can be approved on the House floor and Senate floor. But if House leadership is unable to round up the necessary votes, then appropriators will seek to attach the bill to the Department of Defense bill. The two bills joined together would be difficult for lawmakers to vote against.

For More Information

Conference report 109-300
Appropriations Committee Republican staff: Highlights of the bill  ***Page Not Found
Appropriations Committee Democratic staff: Democratic views of the bill  *** Page Not Found

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