Capitol Hill lawmakers continue to put the “fun” in dysfunctional as negotiations about how to fund the government for another year and whether to impeach the President leave little room for meaningful, bipartisan policymaking. As your eyes and ears on the Hill, AESA's legislative staff is definitely concerned that unless the parties come together quickly we could see a shutdown or the passage of a continuing resolution for an entire year, which would mean that we would see no increases in critical formula programs between FY19 to FY20.

The Senate’s Labor HHS Education spending bill for FY2020 is now stalled.
The reason a year-long CR is looking more likely is that Democrats and Republicans are too far apart on spending levels and cannot find a path forward when it comes to funding the President’s border wall. The Senate’s Labor HHS Education spending bill for FY2020 is now stalled and may not move for a while. Two major problems are causing this situation: 1) the ban on “poison pill” riders that Congress agreed to in this summer’s budget deal; and 2) the very low allocations that the bill received to use for spending. The first issue blew-up in early September at the Labor HHS Education Appropriations Subcommittee mark-up for the FY2020 bill where Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced plans to introduce an amendment that Republicans claimed fell afoul of the agreed to ban on “poison pill” amendments. This caused the Subcommittee mark-up to be cancelled and the full Appropriations Committee mark-up, scheduled for later that week, to be cancelled subsequently.

The second issue came to a head when Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced an amendment in Committee that would have increased the 302(b) allocations for the Labor HHS Education bill. Senate Democrats have complained loudly that the current allocation (plus additional budgetary gimmicks) would equal only a 1% increase in available funding over last year. Additionally, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) decision to spend the vast majority of that 1% on increasing the National Institutes for Health by $3 billion has left little for appropriators to spend on other key education, health and labor programs. Leahy’s amendment failed on a party line vote.

In a failed effort, Richard Shelby (R-AL) tried to bypass the Appropriations Committee entirely.

Later in September Republicans unveiled their version of the FY2020 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill which would level-fund virtually all K-12 education programs, save for charter schools and Title IV in ESSA. Rather than trying to run it again through the normal committee process, Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) decided to bypass the Appropriations Committee entirely and move the bill to the floor, coupling it with the bills covering Defense, Energy and Water funding. According to media reports, he suggested that Democrats would have to agree to this move or run the risk of looking like they oppose defense programs. Despite that pressure, nearly all Democrats opposed a procedural vote to close debate and Shelby’s effort failed.

The President signed the Continuing Resolution, which avoids a government shutdown and punts the funding deadline to November 21.
Upon seeing that there would not be a legitimate negotiation in the Senate, the House voted to pass a Continuing Resolution bill quickly, which the Senate passed the following week. The President signed the continuing resolution, which avoids a government shutdown and punts the funding deadline to November 21st to allow the two chambers and parties more time to figure out a way forward on funding. Given that the House Democrats passed bills proposing $1 billion in new money for both IDEA and Title I, it would be a huge disappointment if we receive level funding for these critical funding streams next year because no agreement on funding levels can be reached.

That’s all the “fun”ding news for now!