The 2016 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill from a House subcommittee cuts funding $3.7 billion below the 2015 level, with its cuts particularly targeted to education and to some health programs. While the cuts reflect the Budget Control Act’s tight appropriations caps, as further reduced by sequestration, they also reflect the Republican majority’s decision to make this bill one of its lowest priorities when allocating funding among the 12 annual appropriations bills — cutting it the most in dollar terms and second most in percentage terms — even though it covers vital areas such as education, public health, and medical research.
Moreover, the bill bars the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from using any funds to implement health reform. This would shut down the federally run health insurance marketplaces and cause millions of people to lose financial assistance in obtaining coverage, as well as end HHS enforcement of rules that protect health insurance consumers and patients.
The Department of Education absorbs two-thirds of the bill’s cuts, receiving $2.5 billion less for 2016 than for 2015. The bill eliminates some programs entirely, including grants for improving math and science education and programs to improve school safety. While the bill boosts special education by roughly $500 million, it provides no increase for “Title I” grants to school districts — the basic federal program that assists schools in educating disadvantaged children — leaving that program with less funding than six years earlier, even before adjusting for inflation.
Within HHS, the bill increases funding for the National Institutes of Health by $1.1 billion (3.7 percent). But it eliminates “Title X” grants for family planning and related preventive health services, and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, which supports research to improve the safety, quality, and affordability of health care systems. It also slices the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program from $108 million to $10 million.
The bill adds $192 million to Head Start (a 2.2 percent increase). But, because it eliminates the Education Department’s Preschool Development Grants program (funded at $250 million in 2015), the result is a net drop in funding for early childhood education.
Moving forward, the President and Congress should agree to replace sequestration with alternate budget savings and provide the resources for education, health care, and other priorities that will increase living standards and the quality of life for American families and individuals well into the future.