CHN: The House Agrees to Restart Action on Spending Bills After Grinding to a Halt
Democratic House leaders’ goal of marking up 11 of the 12 appropriations spending bills in subcommittees and approving four appropriations bills on the House floor by June 15, has been stymied by partisan objections that the bills do not include earmarks (funding for specific programs sought by members of Congress for their districts). Appropriations Chairman Obey (D-WI) had wanted to hold off specifying the more than 32,000 earmarks until the end stage of appropriations legislation – when the differences between House and Senate versions are being resolved by a conference committee. But some Republican members wanted to be able to try to delete some of these earmarks when the bills first come to the House floor. To press their point, they snarled the Homeland Security appropriations bill in numerous floor amendments. By the end of the week, agreement was reached. The Homeland Security, Military Construction-Veterans and Energy-Water bills will go to the floor without earmarks, but will not be sent to the Senate until an earmark package is approved. The remaining bills will be delayed until earmarks are included. For their part, Republicans gave assurances that they will agree to time limits and refrain from bogging bills down with amendments.
This week subcommittees considered housing programs in HUD and juvenile justice programs in the Department of Justice. These subcommittees will not release charts showing funding for each program until after the full Appropriations Committee has an opportunity to consider the bills, perhaps as soon as next week. The following information on selected programs is gleaned from subcommittee press releases and information CHN member organizations have received.
Affordable Housing Programs
The Transportation-HUD Subcommittee has added $330 million to the President’s request for FY ’08, sufficient to fund the Section 8 rental voucher program, HUD’s largest program, so that no one who has a voucher will lose it. It has also added 4,000 new vouchers – 3,000 for non-elderly people with disabilities and 1,000 for homeless veterans. Funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides a flexible pot of money to cities and urban counties that can be used for housing, would be increased by $400 million to $4.2 billion in FY ’08, rejecting the President’s call to cut it by $745 million. The President’s budget zeroed out the $99 million HOPE VI program, which rehabs or replaces dilapidated public housing, but the subcommittee rejected that proposal and boosted funding to $120 million in FY ’08. The subcommittee flat-funds housing for the elderly and for the disabled, both slated for cuts in the President’s budget.
Juvenile Justice Programs
The Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee rejected the President’s FY ’08 proposal to combine all juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs into a block grant that reduced the aggregate funding level by 25 percent from the $339 million FY ’07 level. The Subcommittee provides an overall increase of $7 million for the juvenile justice programs. Three key programs would receive substantial increases while others are cut. State Formula Grants, which support a broad range of research-proven prevention and intervention programs, are funded at $96 million, an increase of $17 million. While Community Prevention Grants would increase by $16 million to $80 million in FY ’08, the program remains well below the $94 million in funding it received in FY ’02 and prior years. The Juvenile Accountability Block Grant, supporting intervention programs aimed at reducing recidivism and rehabilitating adjudicated youth would increase from $49.5 million in FY ’07 to $60 million, still significantly below the $250 million FY ’02 funding level.
The right-wing House Republican Study Committee (RSC) claims to have reached its goal of lining up 147 signers to a letter to the President in support of sustaining the vetoes he is threatening of spending bills that exceed his request. CHN and others organized a letter to House Republicans signed by 70 national organizations opposing that strategy. See the letter at: http://chn.org/pdf/2007/vetoletter.pdf.
In the meantime, the Senate began its appropriations process this week marking up its Homeland Security and Military Construction-Veterans bills.