Issue: H.R. 6157, As Amended; A bill making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes. Through amendment, the Senate version of H.R. 6157 actually becomes a “minibus” of 2 appropriations bills, adding a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill to the Senate version of the Defense bill. Question: On Passage of the Bill, as amended.
Result: Passed in Senate, 85 to 7, 8 not voting. GOP and Democrats scored.
Freedom First Society: America’s military readiness and support is a proper role of the federal government. However, the Senate appended appropriations for Labor/Health and Human Services/Education are almost entirely an unconstitutional usurpation of authority.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
Bill Summary: As amended by the Senate, the Labor-HHS-Defense-Education bill appropriates $854 billion for Fiscal Year 2019. Here is the Congressional Research Services (CRS) Summary of the Defense portion as considered by the House:
“Reported to House without amendment (06/20/2018)
Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2019
Provides FY2019 appropriations to the Department of Defense (DOD) for military activities. Excludes military construction, military family housing, civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers, and nuclear warheads, which are all considered in other appropriations bills.
Provides appropriations to DOD for:
Operation and Maintenance;
Research, Development, Test and Evaluation; and
Revolving and Management Funds.
Provides appropriations for Other Department of Defense Programs, including:
The Defense Health Program,
Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction,
Drug-Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities, and
the Office of the Inspector General.
Provides appropriations for Related Agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System Fund and the Intelligence Community Management Account.
Provides appropriations for Overseas Contingency Operations/ Global War on Terrorism.
Sets forth requirements and restrictions for using funds provided by this and other appropriations Acts.”
Analysis: America desperately needs a Congress that will focus on restoring limited government, i.e., rolling back the Federal monster to conform to what it is authorized by the Constitution — and no more. Of course, that is far and away not the current focus of the leadership of either party.
And H.R. 6157 continues and expands unconstitutional government.
During the “debate” on H.R. 6157, Senate leaders sought to beguile the public with misleading boasts of collectivism, regular order, timeliness, and bipartisanship. Let’s examine each.
We dispute the claim that with this bill the Senate is implementing regular order. Regular order means voting separately on the 12 individual appropriations bills. The Senate-amended version of H.R. 6157 combines widely disparate topics, amounting to almost two-thirds of the discretionary spending, in order to achieve “bipartisan support” and ensure passage.
One could even argue that the Labor/HHS/education appropriations bill is an unhappy mixture and should be separated. But not really. The core of all three departments should be abolished as outside the proper federal role.
Regular order is primarily important as a means to do what Congress is not planning to do — trim the federal monster. Timeliness does reduce waste and uncertainty, but the important question that should be asked here is: What is to be done on time? Americans should not be happy with just promoting government business as usual as though America doesn’t have a care in the world if the trains run on time.
Collectivism Alive and Well!
The Senate “debate” emphasized all of the great things federal money is doing for Americans in total violation of the Constitution. In doing so, the sponsors of H.R. 6157 promoted the subversive collectivist worldview that the good things that happen in society must come from collective (i.e., government) action. This was never the view of America’s Founding Fathers, who gave little authority to the federal government over domestic affairs, reserving such authority to the States and to the people.
“We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party…. Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.” — M. Stanton Evans
Although Evans’ clever assessment may appear to have an element of truth, the reality is worse. As for the leadership of the two parties, we are really dealing with “wolves” versus “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
The wolf in sheep’s clothing deceives those constituents who understand that government needs to be cut back. The outright wolf appeals to those who accept the socialist lie that government can make their lives better and that more government power will be used to do so.
The Establishment media bolsters the latter by constantly drumming into the American people the ostensible virtues of political compromise. But compromising on one’s oath to uphold the Constitution is no virtue.
From those standpoints, here are some revealing quotes from the “debate”:
Excerpts from the Congressional Record (8-16, 8-20 to 8-23-18):
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of Senate Committee on Aging: “It has been 11 years since a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill has been considered on the Senate floor, so let me begin my remarks this morning by commending the chairman and ranking member of the full Appropriations Committee, Senators Shelby and Leahy, for their determination to report each and every one of the appropriations bills so they can be considered, fully debated, and amended in the regular order. I also commend the subcommittee chairman, Senator Blunt, and the ranking member, Senator Murray, for their leadership in creating a bipartisan bill.
“This bill will make critical investments in medical research, opioid abuse prevention and treatment, the education of our students, and strengthening America’s workforce. I appreciate so much that the subcommittee accommodated so many of my priorities in crafting this bill. It has my very strong support. “I am particularly pleased that the bill includes another $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health. Robust investments in biomedical research will pay dividends for many American families struggling with disease and disability, just as such research has enabled us to prevent, treat, or cure other serious illnesses. Notably, this year, for the first time, the bill reaches the milestone of providing at least $2 billion a year for Alzheimer’s disease research — the amount that the advisory council to the National Plan to Combat Alzheimer’s Disease has calculated is needed to find an effective treatment for this disease by the year 2025….
“This bill provides $3.7 billion in the fight against the opioid epidemic that is gripping our country. Sadly, in my State of Maine, the crisis has actually worsened with drug-related overdoses claiming the lives of 407 people in Maine last year, according to the new statistics from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. The crisis in Maine shows no signs of abating. Indeed, the contamination of heroin with fentanyl has made this crisis even worse, taking the lives of even more who are in the grips of addiction. While I am very hopeful the Senate will consider a comprehensive opioids package put together by the Senate HELP Committee, to which many of us contributed in the weeks ahead, it is imperative that the funds provided in this appropriations bill reach our communities without delay.
“This legislation also funds key priorities for vulnerable seniors, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which I know is of interest to the Presiding Officer because he represents the State of Alaska, and that program is critical there, as it is in the State of Maine. “It funds the State Health Insurance Program, Meals on Wheels, and other essential programs that make such a difference to our seniors. As chair of the Senate Committee on Aging, I am particularly delighted that this bill provides a $300,000 increase to the administration for community living for the establishment of the family caregivers advisory council. This council was created by a bipartisan bill that I introduced with Senator Baldwin, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, and it will help develop a coordinated strategic plan to leverage our resources, promote best practices, and expand services and training for our Nation’s caregivers….
“The hearings we have held in the Aging Committee have also put a spotlight on the mobility challenges that many seniors face as they age, such as difficulty climbing steep staircases that can lead to devastating falls, performing routine household chores, taking care of themselves, or being able to drive. This bill provides a $4 million increase for the creation of a new aging and technology program to support the development of assisted technology for seniors with disabilities in rural areas….
“On a related note, I also applaud the inclusion of increased funding to support community health centers, which serve approximately 27 million Americans, including upward of 186,000 individuals in the State of Maine….
“I also strongly support the increased investment in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, which has provided opportunities to children with disabilities and helped many of them reach their full potential….
“This bill also funds teacher and school leader professional development, and the Rural Education Achievement Program, a law that I coauthored several years ago to bring additional resources to small and rural schools….
“Let me just end by urging my colleagues to support the fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. It is good and much needed legislation. Thank you.”
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): “Let me speak in my capacity as vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Today, as you know, the Senate begins consideration of the Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies minibus appropriations bill. This will actually be the third appropriations package brought to the Senate floor this year. Once we complete action, the Senate will have passed 9 of the 12 committee-reported appropriations bills for the fiscal year 2019. It is certainly much faster than has been done in years. I want to thank Chairman Shelby for his commitment to a bipartisan process…..
“I think the bipartisan progress is due to the Shelby-Leahy-McConnell- Schumer commitment to move forward on appropriations bills that have bipartisan support, are at spending levels agreed to in the bipartisan budget deal, and reject poison pill riders and controversial authorizing language. The two bills in this package meet this test. The minibus before us represents 65 percent of all discretionary spending, but it also demonstrates the importance of the bipartisan budget agreement reached earlier this year.
“The LHHS bill makes important new investments in healthcare and education. It increases funding for the National Institutes of Health by $5 billion over fiscal year 2017 so they can aggressively pursue cures for diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. It backs our commitment to increase access to higher education by increasing college affordability spending by $2.3 billion over fiscal year 2017. By increasing access to childcare by $3.2 billion over fiscal year 2017, it supports working families and communities in every part of our country. In doing this, we have rejected the President’s shortsighted budget proposals, which would have cut important programs in the LHHS bill by $12.5 billion from fiscal year 2018 funding level.
“Now, we take into consideration our immediate national security needs, but you can’t just stop there, you have to think about the future of the country. The deep ties that run between defense and non-defense priorities make it fitting that we take up these two bills together, and I applaud the chairman for doing that. By combining these bills into one package, we increase the certainty that they will be enacted into law on time and will avoid the devastating effect of long- term continuing resolutions. I urge our House counterparts, when they come back to Washington, to commit, as we have, to producing a conference report that contains both bills so that we can move swiftly toward final passage. [Emphasis added.]
“Finally, I wish to highlight the new funding in this bill that helps our country address the scourge of opioids…. This package represents a second installment in investing in serious solutions. We invest $3 billion in new resources over fiscal year 2017 to address this crisis. This is on top of roughly $500 million in additional funding contained in other appropriations bills and similar funding levels in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus. But it is because of the bipartisan budget deal that these new investments will surpass $6 billion over 2 years….
“I know we are going to go back now to the appropriations bills, but here is a case in which I think we have done things right. Senator Shelby is the chairman, and I am the vice chairman. It is one of only three committees that has a vice chairman. We have worked very closely together, and we have done it in a way to get bills through in a bipartisan fashion. We actually work the way the Senate did when I first came here, which is the way the Senate has worked under great leaders on the Democratic side, like Mike Mansfield, or on the Republican side, like Howard Baker, and we have gotten things done….
“We are just within an hour or so of doing something the Senate, as Senator McConnell pointed out, has not been able to do in years. I think we will pass a good, responsible and within-the-budget piece of legislation. Both Republicans and Democrats had a voice in the process. We held numerous votes in the Senate Appropriations Committee, all of them overwhelmingly bipartisan, many of them unanimous — with the exception of one or two votes — to get to where we are today….
“Mr. President, the Senate, and Congress as a whole, best serves the American people when we reach real, bipartisan solutions. Today, the Senate will pass its third bipartisan appropriations package, completing Senate consideration of 9 of the 12 appropriations bills reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee and accounting for 87 percent of all discretionary spending. We are proving that when we put partisan politics aside, we can do the work of the American people.”
Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee: “Mr. President, this afternoon, as most of us realize now, the Senate has begun debate on amendments to the fiscal year 2019 Defense-Labor-HHS appropriations bill. These are the two largest bills to come out of the Appropriations Committee as a whole. Both of them together make up a great part of all of the appropriations process and the numbers….
“So the No. 1 thing at stake here is rebuilding our military and taking care of our troops. This bill also provides for a wide range of critical domestic priorities, including education, medical research, and funding to combat the opioid epidemic. All are very important to America.
“Recent history suggests that we face a tall task in passing these bills on the Senate floor. The Senate has not passed a Labor-HHS appropriations bill in more than 10 years. It has been even longer since the President was able to sign a Defense appropriations bill into law before the end of the fiscal year, which ends September 30. Why? Because in the past, poison pills have blown up the process or foreclosed it altogether. I appreciate that one Senator’s poison pill is often another Senator’s priority, but I strongly urge my colleagues today to focus on accomplishing the big picture priorities that I have underscored here. We know where the fault lines run, and I hope we can avoid them.
“There are reasons to believe that this year will be a different year and that we will produce a different outcome. First among them, there is a unified desire to avoid another omnibus spending bill. Second, we come to the floor this week on the heels of a string of recent successes in passing appropriation bills. Third, each of the bills in this package passed the Appropriations Committee by a vote of 30-1. These factors paved the way for the full Senate to consider this package, and I want to take a minute to thank the leaders on both sides, Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer, for agreeing to bring this bill to the floor. I also want to thank the vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, for sticking to the agreement he and I made to move these bills in a bipartisan manner….
“Mr. President, 1999 — nearly 20 years ago — was the last time the Senate passed nine appropriations bills by the end of August — 1999. Some of us are still here. This is the milestone here today that we are about to mark with the passage of two appropriations bills and with the most moneys than in any appropriations bill. Earlier this year, we collectively called for a return to regular order in the appropriations process because it was broken. The leaders on both sides, Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer, provided us with the opportunity to follow through. So I take a moment to thank both of them for their leadership. I believe that we, together in the Senate, are demonstrating that they made the right call. I also recognize the vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, for his work in this regard. I can’t say enough about the importance of his role in passing appropriations bills in a bipartisan manner, because that is the only way we are going to get them done.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), majority whip: Mr. President, this week marks the continuation of a bipartisan effort to actually do the work we were elected to do. The New York Times recently published an article that said the Senate got its groove back. I don’t know if I would go that far, but certainly we are making some progress when it comes to these important funding bills. These two appropriation bills are two of the largest ones in the Federal Government. One, of course, is for the Department of Defense which, appropriately, is the No. 1 priority of the Federal Government — to maintain the peace and keep our Nation safe. The other funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
“After we pass these bills this week, which we will, we will have passed 9 of the 12 appropriations bills, which cover 87 percent of discretionary spending. I might add that when I mention discretionary spending, it is noteworthy that about 70 percent of what the Federal Government spends is not discretionary spending. It is mandatory spending, which is another story in and of itself. But insofar as the Congress’s responsibility to appropriate the funds in discretionary spending, we will have covered about 87 percent of that.”
Freedom First Society: Conservatives should be wary of action endorsed by the New York Times! Are Americans really going to be satisfied that Congress has done its job by merely voting to spend taxpayer money and keep the government running with business as usual?
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), majority leader: “Now, let me say a word about the other appropriations bill that is part of our package on the floor. This bill, the Labor-HHS-Education bill, includes funding for the National Institutes of Health. For the past 6 years, I have made this the focal point of my work here in the Senate. I don’t take particular credit for the results, but I have done my darndest to encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this a priority, and I am happy to report they have.
“For the fourth year in a row, Congress is on track to provide the National Institutes of Health with funding increases of at least 5 percent in real growth — a $2 billion increase in this bill. In the fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill before the Senate, we will help to ensure that our Nation’s best and brightest medical researchers have the funding they need to conduct research on the diseases and conditions that impact every single American….
“I hope, as we move forward to conference with the House on this bill, that we can include at least a 5-percent funding increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other agencies that allow America to literally lead the world in medical innovation. This bill provides $3.7 billion for the prevention and treatment of the scourge of opioid addiction. It will help our Federal agencies to respond better to this ongoing public health challenge.
“It includes provisions I requested to help the CDC address the toll of violence in the city of Chicago and assist with the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Quincy, IL.
“It rejects President Trump’s efforts to slash the Federal-Work Study Program and includes an increase in the maximum Pell grant of $100. It includes $5 million for the Open Textbooks Pilot Program, helping college students across America with the exploding cost of higher education.
“It is a good bill, and I want to commend Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the Democrat, and Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican, for crafting the bipartisan fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill.”
Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia): “We are here to talk about some of the important issues in this bill and how consequential this bill will be and has the potential to be. We are encompassing both Defense and Labor-HHS, both of which passed out of our committee a few weeks ago with bipartisan support and a lot of input from Members in the process. Bills of this magnitude deserve to be debated on the Senate floor, as we are doing today.
‘I will first address the defense part of this measure because I think it impacts not only our standing here and our military here but also has a global impact. President Trump has made rebuilding and strengthening our military one of his administration’s primary objectives, and this bill helps him do exactly that. This legislation invests in programs, projects, technologies, and capabilities that will strengthen our Nation’s military. More importantly, it invests in the people behind all of these efforts by including a 2.6-percent raise for all of our military. That includes our National Guard….
“Of course, the legislation under consideration doesn’t just focus on the military; it also focuses on another war being waged right here in our country, and that is the fight against the opioid epidemic…. Over the past 4 years, we have increased funding for this effort of fighting the opioid crisis by more than 1,275 percent, but we haven’t done this blindly. We are just not throwing money at the problem. I think we have been very thoughtful, as have our partners in the State and local areas. We have focused on treatment through our community health centers. We have focused on prevention, working with the CDC. We have focused on recovery through our workforce initiatives. We have focused on research at NIH, where, hopefully, NIH can develop a non-addictive opioid treatment, which I think will be a major breakthrough for this problem, and we have focused on directing funding to the States to meet the local challenges through their State opioid response grants.
“We have also focused on the ripple effects of this epidemic, including the impact on families and children in foster care. These are all important resources and much needed….
“Just a few weeks ago, our State Department of Health and Human Resources released the preliminary numbers. So far in West Virginia, we have had almost 500 opioid-related deaths. While this is the most devastating statistic, when it comes to West Virginia and the opioid epidemic, it is not the only one. It is not the only one we need to look at. We are seeing an increasing number of children in foster care. This has impacted the entire family. There are more grandparents and great- grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. Our State has an increased need for treatment facilities. We have more babies who are requiring neonatal care, as well as the services as they grow….
“While the opioid epidemic is a very significant focus of Labor-HHS, I wish to highlight some of the other valuable investments…..
“With this bill we have surpassed, with the help of Chairman Blunt and his leadership, a $2 billion milestone when it comes to Alzheimer’s research. That isn’t just for research. It is also to figure out the best way to help our caregivers. Also in this bill, we have directed help to other priorities to a lot of rural States like mine for community health centers, which are critical.
“As for apprenticeship grants, I was just with the plumbers and pipefitters. Apprenticeships are absolutely critical to the workforce that we need. There is the IDeA Program at NIH, which drives research dollars out to universities, away from the main campus of NIH….
“In short, this legislation aims to improve the health and well-being of every single American. When it comes to the Department of Labor, very briefly, this is important for us in West Virginia. There is a training program there for displaced coal workers and coal miners. We have re-funded that. We have pushed more funding to that, I should say.”
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland): “Prescription drug costs are out of control. Any of us who have been to any town-hall meetings — I have been to many in my State — we hear constituents all the time talk about the fact that there is a serious challenge as to whether they can afford to take the medicines they need in order to control their disease, whether it is diabetes, heart, kidney, or cancer. So many patients have to make very tough decisions as to whether they can afford the prescription drugs that are necessary for their care. Many are going into debt. We are now seeing people going into bankruptcy because of medical debt from prescription drugs, and many are going without the medicines themselves. We need to do something about it….
“Lastly, we need to improve Medicare Part D. The out-of-pocket costs are not affordable. We have to put reasonable limits on what people can afford and cover what is beyond those reasonable limits.”
Freedom First Society: Here is one realistic objection. Senator Flake was one of only seven senators to vote against H.R. 6157:
Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona): “With our national debt now exceeding $21 trillion, taxpayers should not have to pick up the Pentagon’s tab for beer bots and for many other unnecessary spending items which are in the bill that we are considering right now. This minibus bill provides over $800 billion in funding to the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Yet, over the past 3 days, we have considered just four amendments to the bill, and not a single one has offered a reduction in spending — not a single one.”