FY16 LHHS Full Committee Markup Bill Summary

Mara Stark-Alcalá w/Appropriations:             (202) 224-2667                                  
Murray Press Office: Eli Zupnick                   (202) 224-2621
Full Committee Mark:  June 25, 2015
Washington, D.C. – The fiscal year 2016 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies bill provides a total of $154.7 billion.  This figure includes $153.2 billion in discretionary funding as well as $1.6 billion in cap adjustment funding, a $77 million increase to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and improper payments in the Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security programs.
The bill’s discretionary funding level is $3.6 billion below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $14.5 billion below the President’s requested level.  The bill also includes numerous policy riders that would impede efforts to protect consumers, taxpayers and workers’ collective bargaining rights.
The Subcommittee’s allocation conforms to the post-sequester caps under the Budget Control Act.  Not one Senate Democrat voted for these austere spending levels because they do not provide adequate resources to protect America, build infrastructure, create opportunity, and spur economic growth. We need a new budget deal, in the spirit of Murray-Ryan, that stops hollowing out investments in America’s future.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ranking Member of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies, said:
“I am deeply disappointed with this bill, which would hurt families and communities and would double down on the automatic budget cuts that Republicans and Democrats agree are bad policy and need to be fixed.
“While I appreciate Chairman Blunt’s interest in increasing research investments, this bill would make deep cuts to middle class priorities like health care, education, job training, worker protection programs, women’s health, and more. It also includes harmful policy riders that would shortchange workers’ retirement savings, roll back collective bargaining rights, and make it harder for students to get valuable information about their higher education options.
“Instead of spending more time on partisan sequester level spending bills that have no chance of becoming law and only push us closer to another budget crisis, we should be working together to reach another bipartisan budget deal to roll back the automatic budget cuts to domestic and defense investments and allow this Committee to truly work together to pass our bills. Democrats and Republicans came together on a bipartisan budget deal in 2013, and I am hopeful we can do that again.”
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement:
“The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill is about our future and how we as a nation invest in our people.  It provides funding to educate our next generation, make sure higher education is affordable for middle class families, make sure America’s seniors get the benefits they’ve earned and deserve, protect our public health, and find cures and treatments for deadly diseases. 
“I want to thank Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray for their hard work and for including a number of my requests, especially the $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health and the $150 million increase for helping families of modest means afford child care services.  But overall, because of sequester funding levels, the bill is $3.6 billion less than last year’s bill, $14.5 billion less than the President’s request, and inadequate for meeting basic human needs.  It also includes the mother of all poison pill riders: defunding critical elements of the Affordable Care Act that has brought health care to 16.4 million people who were previously uninsured.”
Key Points & Highlights
The bill recommends increases for several programs that enjoy strong bipartisan support, including significant investments in the National Institutes of Health and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, as well as more funding for special education.  However, each of these increases is offset by further reductions elsewhere in the bill, driving up the overall level of program cuts to approximately $6 billion.
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Training Programs.  The bill significantly cuts funding for WIOA programs that Congress reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in 2014.  The Employment and Training Administration is provided $8.7 billion, a reduction of almost four percent or $331 million compared to fiscal year 2015.  This cut would result in over 1.4 million youth, dislocated workers and veterans losing access to employment and training services.  The bill also eliminates the Women in Apprenticeships program and cuts funding to One-Stop Career Centers by nine percent.
  • Worker Protection Programs.  The bill significantly reduces funding for key agencies involved in enforcing labor laws related to wage protections.  The Wage and Hour division is funded at $210 million, a reduction of almost eight percent or $17.5 million.  This would reduce its capacity to investigate employer violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and collect tens of millions of dollars in back pay owed to workers. 
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  The bill significantly reduces funding for key agencies that enforce laws providing safe and healthy workplaces.  For example, OSHA is funded at $524 million, a five percent, or $28 million, reduction from fiscal year 2015 funding.  This would reduce OSHA’s ability to enforce the Occupational Safety and Health Act, resulting in thousands of fewer investigations of potential workplace health and safety issues affecting tens of thousands of workers.   
  • Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB).  The bill eliminates most of the funding for a key agency that ensures our trading partners around the world are respecting workers’ rights.  ILAB helps monitor and enforce labor provisions included in trade agreements.  This bill would cripple the government’s ability to monitor and enforce labor provisions in trade agreements and trade preferences by cutting $61 million or 67 percent of ILAB’s budget.
  • Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  The bill cuts CMS program management funding by 28 percent or $1.15 billion.  A cut of this magnitude would not only cripple HHS’ ability to operate the Affordable Care Act programs and the federal health exchange, but would also impact its ability to manage Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Community Health Centers.  The bill cuts $403 million from Community Health Centers, which play a vital role in ensuring access to primary care in underserved areas of the nation.  This reduction would prevent 620 new community health centers from opening, reducing access to care for over 2.6 million Americans.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The bill cuts CDC funding by $245 million, or almost four percent.  Chief among the programs targeted for reduction are community grants aimed at reducing chronic disease, which face a $131 million cut.  This includes elimination of the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Program ($51 million), which funds activities in nearly 90 communities suffering from racial and ethnic health disparities, as well the Partnerships to Improve Community Health program ($80 million), which supports community strategies that address the leading risk factors for the major causes of death and disability in the United States: tobacco use, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity.  The bill also cuts $34 million – 19 percent – from the Center for Environmental Health.  This eliminates CDC’s programs for monitoring drinking water and the public health impacts of extreme weather events, as well as reduces the capacity of the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).  The bill cuts SAMHSA funding by $159 million, or 4.4 percent, including a $25 million reduction to the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness program (a 38 percent reduction).  At a time when prescription drug abuse is a serious concern in many communities, the bill cuts substance abuse treatment programs by $130 million, or six percent. 
  • Head Start.  While the bill provides resources to improve high-quality, early-learning opportunities, it fails to provide a cost-of living increase to Head Start grantees, which would reduce enrollment, forcing approximately 12,270 vulnerable children to lose access to the program.  In addition, the bill fails to make an investment in expanding to full-day, full-year programs that have demonstrated the maximum impact on children’s cognitive outcomes.  Research shows that full-day programs do a better job of providing sufficient learning time in the areas of skill development that children need to excel later in life, including language and literacy.
  • Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP).  The bill cuts this program by $87.8 million, or 81 percent.  TPP provides funding to communities to replicate strategies that have been proven effective at reducing teen pregnancy.  At the same time, the bill increases funding for abstinence-only education – which has shown to be ineffective and frequently medically inaccurate – from $5 million to $20 million, a 300 percent increase.
  • Family Planning Clinics.  The bill cuts funding for Title X clinics by 10 percent or $29 million, to $258 million.  This cut would deny comprehensive family planning and preventive health services to 430,000 people and would increase the estimated number of unintended pregnancies by over 82,000 next year.
The bill reduces education funding to $5 billion below the President’s request level and $1.1 billion below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level.
  • Preschool Development Grants.  Funding for Preschool Development Grants, which helps expand access to preschool for low- and moderate-income four year olds, is eliminated.  Last year’s bill included $250 million for the program, which seeks to support state efforts to offer high-quality public preschool.  Funding appropriated in fiscal year 2015 is supporting grants to 18 states, which if funded over the full period of their awards, would serve 177,000 children in high quality preschool.  Another 18 states have requested funds to serve an additional 285,000 children, but the Department of Education did not have sufficient funding to support these awards. 
  • School Improvement Grants.  The bill cuts School Improvement Grants by $56 million, or 11 percent.  This program provides funds by formula to states to help turnaround their lowest performing schools.  The program has increased flexibility that should lead to better outcomes for students in such schools.  This reduction would mean that an estimated 50 fewer schools would be supported in their efforts to improve student achievement, potentially affecting an estimated 30,000 students. 
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers.  The bill cuts funding for Community Learning Centers by $117 million, or 10 percent, from the fiscal year 2015 level.  This $1.152 billion program currently supports before and after school programs, summer school and extended learning opportunities for 1.7 million students attending high-poverty, low-performing schools.  The proposed level in the bill would reduce access to such services, eliminating it entirely for an estimated 175,000 low-income students. 
  • Investing in Innovation.  The bill eliminates this program, which received $120 million in fiscal year 2015 to scale up and validate evidence-based methods proven to be effective in raising student achievement, as well as develop new methods.  Funds have supported scaling up effective school turnaround strategies in low performing schools, as well as innovations in teaching and learning in STEM and in rural schools. 
  • Pell Grants.  While the bill maintains $22.5 billion in discretionary spending for Pell Grants in fiscal year 2016, it would rescind $300 million in funds that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will be needed to support the program next year.  The bill also cuts $29 million from Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants and $40 million from Federal Work Study.  All three programs help low- and moderate-income college students and their families cover the many costs of higher education. 
  • English Language Acquisition.  The bill cuts funding for English Language Acquisition State Grants, providing $712 million, $25.4 million less than last year.  These funds provide formula grants to States for their efforts to help English learners attain language proficiency and become ready for college and careers.
  • Minority Serving Higher Education Programs.  The bill cuts funding for minority serving higher education institutions, providing $220.7 million, $6.8 million less than last year, for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and $97.2 million, $3 million less than last year, to support Hispanic Serving Institutions.  It also cuts three percent from eight other targeted programs that primarily support minority populations. 
  • Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  The bill freezes the Department of Education’s budget for OCR at a time when its workload is rapidly increasing – particularly in the area of campus sexual violence.  OCR currently receives about 10,000 complaints per year, up from roughly 6,900 in 2010.  However, its budget remains below the fiscal year 2012 pre-sequestration level.
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  The bill cuts CNCS by $211 million or 20 percent, and the AmeriCorps program by nearly 20 percent.  This means communities across the country could lose critical support for their public schools and organizations serving seniors and veterans.  The bill also eliminates the Social Innovation Fund, destroying the public-private partnership that has generated more than $500 million in private funding for evidence-based programs that expand economic opportunity, improve health and support at-risk youth.
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).  The bill fails to provide a requested increase of $40 million for fiscal year 2016 to support the costs associated with replacing CPB’s interconnections system.  To cover these costs, the bill would allow CPB to make cuts to its support for local television and radio stations. 
  • Social Security Administration (SSA).  The bill cuts SSA by $185 million, or roughly two percent, affecting the 50 million Americans who currently receive retirement and survivor benefits from Social Security, as well as the millions more who become eligible this year.  On an average work day in fiscal year 2016, SSA predicts it will process about 22,000 applications for retirement and survivor benefits, a 29 percent increase since fiscal year 2008.  At this bill’s funding level, SSA would need to reduce staff, office hours, planned information technology investments and curtail planned improvements to customer service and program integrity.  This reduction could result in a furlough of up to two weeks for SSA staff. 
Poison Pill Riders
The bill includes a number of policy riders that would cripple efforts to protect consumers, workers’ collective bargaining rights, and students, including:
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The bill includes new language to prohibit HHS from spending any of the funding in this bill to support State Based Marketplaces.  This rider is in addition to the bill’s elimination of all ACA-related funding, and would affect access to care for millions of Americans.
  • Conflict of Interest.  Includes new language to block the Employee Benefit Security Administration’s efforts to eliminate potential conflicts of interest that could reduce the retirement savings of participants in traditional pensions, 401(k)s or IRAs.  The Department of Labor released a proposal earlier this year, and the bill would shut down the rule before the period for review and comment has even expired.  The Council of Economic Advisers recently issued a report that surveyed available research and found that conflicted investment advice costs investors in IRAs and 401(k)s approximately $17 billion per year. 
  • Representation-Case Procedures.  The bill includes new language to prevent the NLRB from implementing its final rule to streamline elections and reduce the unnecessary litigation that too often delays votes on union representation.  The President vetoed the recent disapproval resolution passed by Congress, and earlier this month a Federal district court rejected an injunction request to block the rule. 
  • Joint-Employer Standard.  The bill includes new language to prevent the NLRB from updating the joint-employer standard, which has remained essentially unchanged since 1984.  Since that time, businesses have dramatically expanded the use of franchises and other third-party sources to lower their labor costs.  This language would prevent the NRLB from examining and adapting the National Labor Relations Act to these changing patterns in the labor market. 
  • Bargaining Unit Standard.  The bill includes new language to prevent the NLRB from applying its test for appropriate bargaining units as set out in its Specialty Healthcare decision.  The NLRB decision clarifies when smaller bargaining units can form within the same facilities.  Since it took effect in 2011, the average size of bargaining units has changed little, which undermines Republican claims about the growth of “micro-unions.”
  • Electronic Voting.  The bill includes language to prevent the NLRB from issuing any new rules allowing employees to vote electronically in union elections.  This would prevent the agency from modernizing and increasing the efficiency of the voting process.
  • Gainful Employment. The bill includes new language that would block the Department of Education’s final rule that attempts to clarify the standards for what constitutes gainful employment under the Higher Education Act.  The Department of Education has been engaged in a multi-year rulemaking process since 2010 to define the term “gainful employment” and set minimum standards.  The Department of Education has been primarily motivated by high levels of debt and poor employment outcomes for students at certain institutions.
  • Credit Hour Definition.  The bill includes new language to prohibit the Department of Education from implementing the credit hour regulation.  This regulation would create a federal definition of “credit hour” in response to the Inspector General’s concern that questionable credit hour definitions at some institutions are sources of potential waste, fraud and abuse in the federal student aid programs.
  • Teacher Preparation.  Includes new language to prohibit any funds from being used for the proposed teacher preparation regulation issued in November 2014.  The Department of Education proposed regulations intended to ensure that teacher training programs prepare educators so they are ready to succeed when they enter the classroom.

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