House Appropriations Committee sets 302(b) allocations, approves 3 funding bills
- By Lia Russell
- Jul 10, 2020
The House Appropriations Committee approved 302(b) allocations for each its 12 subcommittees for Fiscal Year 2021 during a on July 9 markup.
The committee approved, on a 29-21 vote, allocations totaling almost $1.3 trillion. House lawmakers are pushing back against the White House’s proposed budget cuts, especially in light of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ten of the 12 subcommittees saw increases over FY2020 levels -- the allocation for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education dropped by roughly $100 million, while Military Construction and Veterans Affairs' allocation was almost $1 billion less than for FY2020.
Last year, Congress passed a two-year resolution that set caps on defense and domestic spending through the end of FY 2021. The total discretionary spending allowed for FY2021 under that agreement was $1.375 trillion. Emergency spending -- which has been substantial this year in due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic damage it has prompted -- are not factored into the allocations.
The full committee also approved three of the appropriation bills that had advanced out of subcommittees earlier this week.
The State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriation totals almost $65.9 billion for FY2021, of which $10 billion would be used to address COVID-19, which has killed over 132,000 Americans and almost 551,000 people worldwide.
Members also unanimously voted to pass Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)’s amendment to rename an international basic education fund in honor of Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who is retiring at this end of this Congress.
The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriation was approved at $24 billion for FY2021 -- $4 billion above the administration's budget request.
Subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) said that $990 million would be allotted to the ReConnect program to expand broadband Internet access for workers and students who experienced difficulties after coronavirus precautions forced them to attend classes and perform job duties remotely.
The Veterans Affairs, Military Construction, and Related Programs bill, which would appropriate $250.9 billion, also passed, 30-20.
The Department of Veterans Affairs would receive almost $105 billion, $12.5 billion of which would be reserved as emergency funding to address veteran health care costs, overriding the cap on spending.
“We have been heading toward a fiscal cliff and this is a badly needed fix that will provide essential relief,” Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said.
Wasserman Schultz added that the funding would also go toward issues such the agency’s electronic health care records modernization project, updating legacy IT systems and medical facilities, and ensuring that telehealth measures would be in place for veterans in underserved and rural areas.
“A major challenge remains with recruitment and retainment,” Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) added, referencing mass vacancies at the VA.
The Veterans Benefits Administration would receive $3.2 billion for operating expenses in order to expedite processing disability claims and continue reporting requirements on the disability claims and appeals backlog, which has spiked since the agency adopted a telework posture.
Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.
Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.