House committee approves $189.8b health, education bill

House committee approves $189.8b health, education bill
© Greg Nash
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a $189.8 billion spending bill covering Labor, Health and Human Services and Education that rejected drastic cuts proposed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE.
 
The largest annual non-defense spending bill passed 30-23 in a party line vote.
 
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“This bill is an excellent example of our commitment to investing for the people and making life better for the middle class and people struggling to make it into the middle class,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyProgressives look to flex their muscle in next Congress after primary wins Governors air frustrations with Trump on unemployment plans It's past time to be rid of the legacy of Jesse Helms MORE (D-N.Y.). 
 
The bill, which the full House is expected to take up in June, adds $11.7 billion to current spending levels. Trump's budget request was $47.8 billion lower.
 
“From Early Head Start to Social Security, these programs touch individuals and families throughout their lifespan,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroCoronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding Lobbyists see wins, losses in GOP coronavirus bill Public health groups denounce new Trump move sidelining CDC MORE (D-Conn.), who chairs the subcommittee governing the Labor bill.
 
“That is why the president’s budget is not carrying the day. We have done some things with his proposal. But in large part, his proposal reflects values that we do not subscribe to,” she added.
 
The bill rejected Trump's proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health and the Special Olympics, as well as his proposed elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
 
It added $4 billion to early childhood programs, increased funding for K-12 and postsecondary education by $4.4 billion and included a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health. Trump had called for cutting the NIH budget by $4.9 billion.
 
One area of agreement, DeLauro said, was with the president's call to reduce HIV transmission 90 percent in a decade, which was funded beyond the administration’s request. The bill also provided $50 million for the CDC and NIH to research gun safety.
 
It left in place the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions.
 
During the hearing, the committee approved a handful of amendments. One, from DeLauro, would add an additional $103 million to a variety of programs dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, graduate education, Sudden Unexplained Infant Deaths research, Opioid recovery centers, child abuse prevention programs, and museums and libraries. It would also would block a potential Medicare and Medicaid regulation that would cut funding for transportation to and from health centers.  
 
Another would block a Trump regulation allowing medical providers to refuse treatment on religious grounds. 
 
An amendment from Rep. Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisGOP's Gohmert introduces resolution that would ban the Democratic Party Overnight Defense: Panel approves 4.6B bill addressing border wall funds, Confederate name changes | Navy ship fire rages on House panel approves defense bill with border wall limits, Confederate base provision MORE (R-Md.), would change the way H2B visas for foreign workers are allocated, scrapping a lottery system in favor of granting employers visas on a proportional basis. It would also allot the visas quarterly instead of bi-annually. A second successful Harris amendment added $300 million to boost the strategic national stockpile of critical medical supplies, such as antibiotics, vaccines and chemical antidotes.
 
While Republicans on the Committee praised many of the shared goals in the plan, they complained that Democrats were rushing forward with spending bills without a finalized, bipartisan deal to raise spending caps.
 
“This bill includes a 6 percent increase that’s unrealistic based on the current caps and the president’s budget,” said ranking member Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerHelping our seniors before it's too late House approves .3 trillion spending package for 2021 GOP lawmakers comply with Pelosi's mask mandate for House floor MORE (R-Texas). 
 
“We should not put the cart before the horse,” she added.
 
The spending in the bill conformed with a Democratic plan to raise defense spending by $17 billion and non-defense spending by $34 billion over current levels. 
 
Trump recommended leaving stringent spending caps in place that would amount to a roughly 10 percent cut in spending, affecting both categories, though it would add $96 billion to defense spending by packing an off-book account. 
 
Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyRepublicans face worsening outlook in battle for House The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida Internal Democratic poll shows tight race in key Texas House district MORE (R-Texas), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus that often has Trump’s ear, is gathering signatures for a Friday letter urging Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress exits with no deal, leaving economists flabbergasted Trump says he'll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions Pelosi calls Trump attacks on mail-in voting a 'domestic assault on our Constitution' MORE (D-Calif.) to keep the budget caps in place, though it does not recommend increasing defense funding through other methods. The letter has 30 signatories so far.
 
In the Senate, Appropriations Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS MORE (R-Ala.) is waiting for negotiators from the House, Senate and White House to agree to new caps before beginning to advance spending bills, though he said he may pick his own levels if there is no deal by June. 
 
In the meantime, the House is powering ahead. 
 
The appropriations committee, which approved a plan on how to allocate the annual spending through the 12 spending bills on Wednesday, will mark up the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs bill and the Legislative branch bill on Thursday, and advance the State and Foreign Operations bill in its subcommittee.