House Republicans have assigned overall funding amounts to the annual appropriations bills that fund domestic spending and foreign aid for the upcoming fiscal year at extremely low levels not seen since 2004. The Labor, Health & Human Services, Education (LHHS) annual funding bill would provide about 18.6 percent less than current funding levels, which include budget cuts from sequestration. Cuts of this magnitude would be devastating and nearly quadruple the impact of sequestration on education funding.
Current law requires that spending levels for domestic programs and defense programs both be cut about the same amounts in Fiscal Year 2014, which begins October 1. Yet the funding provided by the House Appropriations Committee for the Defense Department, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs would cut spending for these programs by less than 1 percent overall, compare to current spending levels.
As a result of House Republicans protecting defense spending, the remaining 9 funding bills, largely devoted to domestic spending, face combined cuts 17 percent below current spending levels. Unfortunately, the bulk of these cuts are applied to the bill that funds education programs. The public deserves to know the details of how these cuts will be applied to specific programs, but unless the House debates the LHHS Appropriations bill, which has not happened in several years, details of this funding bill are unlikely to be released.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, issued a statement after the House Committee on Appropriations approved the low funding allocation. In it, Harkin challenges the House to show exactly how it plans to slash vital education, health, and job training services. Read the statement here.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the LHHS funding bill, said the GOP is targeting “poor people, kids, college students, sick people, the unemployed and the disabled.”
The Senate has not made their funding allocations for each spending bills public, but should by early June. However, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is working under a higher overall spending limit for all 12 appropriations bills than the House Appropriations Committee is working under, negating the need to deeply slash any single spending bill.
The dramatic differences in priorities and spending levels expected between the House and Senate will create insurmountable hurdles to reach any workable compromise on many of the Fiscal Year 2014 funding bills. As a result, Congress will almost certainly need to pass a continuing resolution -- a continuation of current funding levels. This year however, such a bill will require modifications to reach the lower overall spending limits set into law for Fiscal Year 2014, as compared to Fiscal Year 2013, likely resulting in even more partisan political battles.
Find more details on the potential impact of the House funding allocation for education programs in a fact sheet compiled by the Committee for Education Funding.