Congressional leaders assemble a 2015 funding bill to last through mid-December

House Appropriations Committee Dems introduce a 2015 Labor HHS bill.

On Sept. 9, the House Appropriations Committee introduced H.J.Res. 124, a continuing resolution (CR) that extends current funding for discretionary federal government programs through Dec. 11. The House will vote on the CR during the week of Sept. 15, and the Senate will consider it afterwards. The legislation must pass if Congress is to avoid a shutdown of the federal government on Oct. 1, and fortunately a shutdown appears not to be in the cards this year. The House is scheduled to adjourn around Sept. 19 until after the November midterm election. The Senate is expected to adjourn by Sept. 23.

The CR provides funding at the current annual rate of $1.012 trillion. Virtually all existing policy and funding provisions included in currently enacted fiscal year 2014 appropriations legislation will carry forward. The bill does not include new controversial riders or large changes in existing federal policy. However the bill does include some new provisions responding to current events. For example, the CR provides $58 million for research and development on Ebola therapies through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) and $413 million in funding for global health programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of which $30 million is for ongoing efforts to address the Ebola outbreak in Africa. These budget additions, also known as anomalies, are offset by a 0.0554 percent across-the-board cut in funding.

Although the schedule for the “lame duck” (post-election) session has not yet been announced, it could be relatively busy given the amount of unfinished business Congress must address before the end of the year. If the CR expires in December, appropriators must complete work on an FY 2015 spending package since they were not able pass the individual spending bills. Funding increases reported this summer for NIH (1.8 percent above the FY 2014 level in the Senate Appropriations Committee bill) and NSF (3.3 percent over the FY 2014 level in the House-passed bill) will not be enacted if Congress does not push through the bills either separately or in an omnibus.

Democrats on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education released a bill (PDF, 136KB) this week that tracks closely with the bill reported by the Senate Labor-HHS Subcommittee. The bill provides that funds for most education, health and labor programs are returned to at least presequester funding levels and it does so within the ceiling of $155.7 billion set by the House Republican majority ($1.1 billion below current levels).

The bill includes $30.6 billion for NIH, $778 million more than the current level. The bill provides $7.1 billion for CDC, $244 million more than the current level, including increases for initiatives to address antibiotic resistance, global health security, prescription drug overdoses, cancer prevention, food safety and gun violence.

The subcommittee Democrats' bill is meant to call attention to the fact that there is no official House Labor-HHS-Education bill. The Labor-HHS Subcommittee is the only House appropriations subcommittee that has not produced a bill, most likely because the chair doesn't have enough votes among the majority to move a bill to the next step in the process. The specific reasons have not been made public, but some in the subcommittee majority would likely find any potential bill too expensive.