Senior Fellow and Senior Counselor
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the 2014 appropriations bill today for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services (HHS), one of 12 appropriations bills Congress is supposed to enact before the fiscal year starts October 1. The bill shows that policymakers can make modest, targeted investments in key areas like early education and medical research without slashing everything else if they cancel the harmful sequestration cuts scheduled for next year.
The bill reflects the committee’s decision to fund defense and non-defense discretionary programs at the levels set in the 2011 Budget Control Act before sequestration. This approach is consistent with the Senate’s overall budget blueprint, which calls for replacing sequestration with a balanced package of deficit-reduction measures that include other spending cuts and higher revenues.
Under the bill, total funding for discretionary programs at Labor, Education, and HHS would be more than $14 billion above the 2013 level after sequestration. Areas receiving additional funding include:
The Senate Appropriations Committee approach stands in stark contrast to the House Appropriations Committee approach, which cuts the overall amount of funding for Labor, Education, and HHS programs by $40 billion relative to the 2013 level before sequestration and by $33 billion — or 18.6 percent — relative to the 2013 post-sequestration level.
The House Appropriations Committee hasn’t yet drawn up its version of a Labor-Education-HHS funding bill. Some observers think it may never do so; if that proves to be the case, we will never see how the House’s deep cut in resources for Labor, Education, and HHS would affect specific programs. That would be unfortunate, as it would allow proponents of the House approach to tout their spending cuts in the abstract without having to take responsibility for what a funding reduction of that magnitude would actually mean for K-12 education, medical research, health care, and other priorities.