The Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies just approved a funding plan for those agencies in Fiscal Year 2014. The full Committee will consider the bill tomorrow.
During the Subcommittee’s consideration of the bill, Senators voiced their appreciation of the bipartisan effort and conversations leading up to the bill. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair of the Subcommittee, expressed her commitment to get the bill on the Senate floor saying “If we move this bill, America and the people who live in it will be in a better place.” Senator Mikulski explained that the appropriations bill laid the groundwork for expanding opportunity in America through empowering students, investing in education and getting people to work in the 21st century.
We agree. The bill not only rejects the painful cuts from sequestration—it provides additional funding in several key areas, especially early childhood education. Here are seven reasons we were dancing in our offices when we saw the details of the Senate Subcommittee’s FY 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill:
True, most of the added investments are modest, especially coming after years of freezes or cuts. This bill complies with the overall funding levels set out in the Senate Budget Resolution, which were reduced by the Budget Control Act even without additional cuts from sequestration. But the bill provides a dramatic contrast to the direction the House is moving.
Since the House of Representatives has yet to mark up its Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill allocating funds to specific programs, it is impossible to make a detailed comparison between the House and the Senate versions. Yet, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) pointed out in a recent analysis of the two plans, the total House allocation for Labor, HHS, and Education programs is $42.5 billion less than the Senate’s: a difference of 25.9 percent. The reason is that the House not only keeps the sequestration cuts; as CBPP explains, “In an attempt to protect defense and related programs yet keep total discretionary funding at the post-sequestration level, the House plan cuts other domestic programs even more deeply than sequestration does.” In fact, the House allocations are less than the Senate allocations for all 12 subcommittees (even the Defense and Homeland Security subcommittees get less, but for them, the differences between the House and Senate are less than one percent).
If the House attempts to draft its own Labor-HHS-Ed bill, Representatives may find that it’s easier to call for massive cuts in general, or for automatic cuts through sequestration, than to identify specific programs to be slashed. We hope that the House can have the same bipartisan conversations that the Senate did and rethink their allocations in order to move forward on crucial investments that will strengthen America today and for future generations.