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September 27, 2018

Congress just passed its 2019 HHS spending bill. Here's what made the cut.

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    The House on Wednesday voted 361-61 to pass a "minibus" bill (HR 6157) that would increase funding for opioid misuse treatment, medical research, and community block grants.

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    The bill is the second of a planned trio of FY 2019 spending bills that House and Senate lawmakers had intended to vote on this week. Lawmakers are still negotiating agreements on the third spending bill, which would fund the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development, though it is not clear if they will reach a deal by the Oct. 1 deadline, CQ News reports.

    Lawmakers must pass the bills—or, alternatively, a short-term spending resolution—before the new budget year begins Oct. 1 to avoid a federal shutdown.

    According to CQ News, the packages' approval would mark the first time in more than two decades that so many appropriations bills would be on track to make it to the president's desk by the end of the fiscal year. It has been 22 years since Congress passed a Labor-HHS-Education bill by the beginning of the new fiscal year.

    'Minibus' bill details

    The $855.1 billion minibus bill includes FY 2019 funding for HHS, the Department of Defense, and the Education and Labor departments, as well as a continuing resolution to fund other agencies whose budgets Congress does not plan to address through the appropriation process before the Oct. 1 deadline.

    The Labor, Education, and HHS spending bill would total $178 billion in discretionary spending and about $866 billion in mandatory funding for programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

    The bill includes $90.5 billion in discretionary funding for HHS in FY 2019, which represents a $2.3 billion increase over FY 2018. That figure includes:

    • $39.1 billion for NIH, representing a 5% increase from FY 2018;
    • $7.1 billion for CDC; and
    • $5.7 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    The HHS spending bill would allocate $2.3 billion for Alzheimer's disease research and $3.8 billion to combat the opioid misuse epidemic, including $1.5 billion for state response grants and a $206 million increase for opioid use disorder treatment.

    In addition, the HHS spending bill would allocate $725 million for community block grants, which Congress often uses to help state and local governments recover from major natural disasters such as hurricanes, representing a $10 million increase over FY 2018 levels.

    The minibus bill also would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act through Dec. 7 and allocate an additional $8.8 billion to help Hurricane Florence recovery efforts.

    According to CQ News, lawmakers included funding for FDA and the Indian Health Service in the short-term spending in case a final deal is not reached on the third appropriations bill. FDA and the Indian Health Service, are funded through the Agriculture Department and the Interior Department, respectively.

    The continuing resolution would allocate $5.2 billion for FDA and $5.5 billion for the Indian Health Service until Dec. 7. According to CQ News, the bill also would allocate an additional $15 million to the Indian Health Service to cover operational costs for new facilities.

    Trump expected to sign

    The bill, which last week passed the Senate in a 93-7 vote, now heads to Trump, who is expected to sign the measure before the Oct. 1 deadline. Trump told reporters on Wednesday, "We're going to keep the government open" (Daly, AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/26; Snell, NPR, 9/26; Siddons/Donnelly, CQ News, 9/26 [subscription required]; Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 9/27; Zengerle, Reuters, 9/26; House Speaker news release, 9/25).

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