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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Senate Passes Massive Health and Defense Spending Bill

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This week, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan “minibus” package for fiscal year 2019 Defense-Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bills, which include funding for federal mental health and addiction programs. Notably, the bill (H.R. 6157) would increase funding for some mental health and addiction programs as well as provide around $3.8 billion to specifically to address the opioid addiction crisis. With the House expected to vote on the package next week, Congress hopes to finalize the federal health care budget and avoid a government shutdown before the September 30th spending deadline.

SUMMARY

House and Senate spending leaders announced last Thursday that they had struck a deal on a massive package that would fund two-thirds of government, including funding for the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Congressional leaders were careful to combine Labor-HHS appropriations with the Defense spending in an effort to generate bipartisan support for the minibus. The compromise package contains billions more for domestic agencies than what was called for in President Trump’s FY 2019 budget request and its funding levels closely resemble the Senate’s initial Labor-HHS spending plan.

Specifically, the minibus provides the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with a $2.3 billion increase in discretionary spending (compared to FY 2018), bringing HHS’s total discretionary health spending to approximately $90.5 billion. Compared to last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would receive an additional $580 million, bringing the agency’s total budget to $5.7 billion, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive an additional $2 billion, providing $39.1 billion for NIH total. With continued Congressional attention on the opioid crisis, the minibus includes around $3.8 billion, an increase of over $206 million, for activities intended to curb opioid use and addiction. See our Capitol Connector coverage from last week for a list of targeted opioid activities and funding levels.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The House is expected to vote on the spending package when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C. next week and send the measure to President Trump’s desk before the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. The Defense-Labor-HHS package also serves as the vehicle for a continuing resolution (CR) to fund unresolved appropriations bills through December 7th, which would allow Congress to avert a potential government shutdown.

It is widely expected that the package will pass the House, although President Trump has criticized the package for not including any funding for a U.S. southern border wall.