Senate Passes Defense, LHHS “Minibus” Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Aug. 23, 2018) – The Senate Thursday passed the Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Programs “Minibus” appropriations bill, accounting for 65 percent of all discretionary spending, notching the latest bipartisan achievement in returning the appropriations process to regular order and fulfilling core goals of the bipartisan budget deal signed into law in February.  The bill passed with broad bipartisan support by a vote of 85 to 7. 

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Leahy (D-Vt.) said:  “This package of bills invests not only in our immediate national security needs, but in the future of our country.  It makes significant new investments in the opioid crisis, education and finding cures for diseases from Alzheimer’s to cancer.  Importantly, it continues the bipartisan progress we have seen in the appropriations process.  The Senate, and Congress, best serves the American people when we reach bipartisan solutions.”

The two-bill package completed Senate consideration of nine of the 12 annual appropriations bills passed by the Senate committee, which together account for roughly 87 percent of all discretionary spending.  To date, 24 amendments have received votes on the Senate Floor across the nine bills.  This marks a significant turn from the gridlock that has plagued the appropriations process in recent years.  The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Programs appropriations bill alone had not received consideration on the Senate Floor in more than a decade.

The bipartisan progress is largely due to a commitment among Appropriations Chairman Shelby (R-Ala.), Leahy, Republican Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) and Democratic Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.) to only move forward on appropriations bills that have bipartisan support, are at spending levels agreed to in the bipartisan budget deal, and reject poison pill riders and controversial authorizing language.   

The Senate process has received bipartisan and bicameral praise:

Leader Schumer:  “If we’re looking to work in a bipartisan way, this is probably the best sprout of bipartisanship that has bloomed in a long time in this body.”

Leader McConnell:  “This process is not easy.  It is hard work for our Appropriations subcommittees and full committee to craft this legislation. Then, here on the floor, we need cooperation from both sides to process amendments while resisting the temptation to turn the appropriations process into a free-for-all on all manner of policy issues. But this year, that’s just what we’re doing.” 

Chairman Shelby:  “At the outset of this appropriations cycle, the four of us met and agreed to work together in an effort to return the Senate to regular order.  Since that time, the Appropriations Committee passed all 12 bills before the July 4th recess, all with strong bipartisan margins.  The first time that’s been done in 30 years.”

Former House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers:  “I’m especially thrilled with the Senate, which for the first time in many years is making real progress on passing bills, which will greatly enhance our chances of getting these bills passed in both bodies.”

The package realizes the goals of the bipartisan budget agreement reached in February by making significant new investments over fiscal year 2017 funding levels to improve the lives of the American people, including:

  • $5 billion over fiscal year 2017 for the National Institutes of Health;
  • $3.2 billion over fiscal year 2017 for Child Care Development Block Grants;
  • $3 billion over fiscal year 2017 to combat the opioid crisis; and
  • $2.3 billion over fiscal year 2017 to increase college affordability.

President Trump’s budget would have cut LHHS programs by $12.5 billion from fiscal year 2018’s enacted funding level.

The appropriations package now goes to conference negotiations with the House of Representatives, and must be signed into law by the President.

Leahy’s Full Statement: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/minority/vice-chairman-patrick-leahy-d-vt-statement-on-senate-passage-of-the-defense-lhhs-minibus-appropriations-bill

The New York Times: How the Senate Got Its Groove Back With the Power of the Purse

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CONTACT: Jay Tilton – 202-202-224-2667