Today, Congress passed a Fiscal Year (FY) Continuing Resolution (CR), funding the government at current year levels through December 11, 2015. The “clean” CR – so dubbed because of the absence of additional policy riders such as proposed funding restrictions for Planned Parenthood, passed the House this afternoon, with a vote of 277-151, following a 78-20 vote in the Senate this morning. With FY 2015 funding set to expire at midnight, the passage of the CR prevents a government shutdown but also sets up what is likely to be a contentious budget fight in December.
The CR includes an across the board reduction in discretionary funding of 0.2108 percent for all agencies, including formula and national grants administered through the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The cut is designed to bring overall spending in line with Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget caps.
It is unclear what the next steps in this year’s appropriations process will be, given uncertainty in House leadership and the impending debate over raising the debt ceiling.
The President’s FY 2016 budget proposed significant new investments in education and training, as well as enhanced support for existing programs. The budget built on the recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the administration’s job-driven training action plan, and proposals the President announced leading up to and during the State of the Union address on January 20, focused on “middle-class economics.” As part of that agenda, the President proposed expanding opportunities to all Americans to improve their skills, through a series of initiatives designed to deliver access to middle-skill credentials for millions of students and working people.
As a comparison, the House voted along party lines (219-208) on March 25, 2015 to pass the chamber’s FY 2016 budget resolution. The Labor HHS bill proposes consolidating workforce development programs, converting SNAP into a block grant, and cutting funding for non-defense discretionary programs. The Senate’s Labor HHS bill would force deep cuts to SNAP and NDD programs, although the proposed cuts are not quite as significant as those proposed in the House.
It is expected that President Obama would veto any final appropriations bills that included additional cuts to non-defense discretionary programs below current levels, but it is still important for advocates to weigh in with policymakers between now and December to reinforce the importance of continued funding for workforce programs. National Skills Coalition will continue to follow the budget and appropriation process’ impact on workforce and education programs.