Federal agencies

House passes set of appropriations bills, likely a no-go in the Senate

appropriations web
Photo: Senate Appropriations Committee

Washington – The House on Sept. 14 passed all of its appropriations bills, including one that would fund OSHA, NIOSH, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. That set of bills, however, likely will not get through the Senate in its current form.

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said the House’s legislation – the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018 – is a nonstarter.

“What the House passed today does not bring us any closer to responsibly funding the government, and it will not pass the Senate,” Leahy said in a Sept. 14 press release.

Further weakening the legislation’s chances are amendments added by the House Rules Committee, including one that seeks to prohibit funding for OSHA’s Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule.

An amendment that called for a 10 percent cut to MSHA funding and staffing failed, as did one that called for a 1 percent cut to the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and their related agencies. A proposed amendment that blocked funding for OSHA’s regulation on respirable crystalline silica was not brought to a vote.

“[The bill] contains poison-pill riders that have no place in the appropriations process,” Leahy said in the release.

The Senate’s proposed funding also proved more generous than the House. Its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill was sent to the full chamber on Sept. 7.

Under the Senate bill, OSHA would receive $552.8 million, while President Donald Trump’s Department of Labor budget request, released May 23, allocates $543 million. The House bill proposes to give the agency $531.5 million.

A portion of that suggested OSHA budget cut would come from the elimination of the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which provides funding to nonprofit organizations for the creation of worker safety training and education. In a House budget hearing on June 7, Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta said his department wants to supply direct training in place of the grants, potentially saving $10.5 million. The Senate bill offers to keep the training program.

MSHA’s proposed funding in the House bill is $360 million. The Senate bill allocates $373.8 million, and President Trump has proposed $375.2 million.

NIOSH would receive $325.2 million in the House bill. The Senate bill has the agency’s potential budget at $335.2 million, while President Trump’s request allocates $200 million.

The House bill also gives $11 million to the Chemical Safety Board. President Trump sought to eliminate the agency in his budget request.

Under the Senate bill, DOL would receive $12 billion – $61.5 million less than in Fiscal Year 2017. The House bill proposes a $1.3 billion cut, and President Trump is seeking a $2.4 billion decrease.

Funding for agencies or any attempts to block regulations will not become clear until both chambers ultimately agree on a FY 2018 budget, which could remain unresolved for months. Congress did not finalize FY 2017 funding until May 4 – seven months after the fiscal year started.

What likely will happen – given that recent budgets have not met the Sept. 30 deadline – is that one or more continuing resolutions will be required to keep funding the government, followed perhaps by a late omnibus appropriations bill, as in FY 2017.

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