By Tom Branen
Last month, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees made their recommendations for the FY 2016 Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies legislation. This bill funds the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The Labor HHS allocation for both the House and Senate was set at $153.1 billion for FY 2016, a $3.7 billion reduction from the current FY 2015 allocated level.
The full House Appropriations Committee recommended $687.8 million for CNCS, a reduction of $367M from the current FY 2015. It eliminates funding for state service commissions, AmeriCorps NCCC, the Volunteer Generation Fund, and the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). It reduces CNCS’s Salaries and Expenses line item from $81 million to $20 million.
The bill funds Senior Corps and VISTA at their current FY 2015 levels and reduces AmeiCorps State and National to $318 million down from the current $335 million. The National Service Trust was recommended at $50 million, however, that amount would not correlate with the recommended funding levels for the AmeriCorps program.
The Senate Appropriations Committee reduced CNCS funding by $210 million from the current FY 2015 funding level. The bill cuts AmeriCorps State/National to $270 million, a $65 million reduction from the current FY 2015 and eliminates the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). Senior Corps is reduced by $5 million and VISTA by $2 million.
It keeps level funding for State Commission Grants $16.038 million, AmeriCorps NCCC $30 million and the Volunteer Generation Fund $3.8 million.
The FY 2016 appropriations process has come to a grinding halt, as Senate Democrats have prevented spending bills from moving forward in that chamber as they are trying to force a deal that would raise the current sequestered appropriations allocations.
Appropriations bills are not expected to make it through the House chamber any time soon, either.
Speaker Boehner told Republican members this week that there was a hold on all spending bills until they could figure something out on the Confederate battle flag.
Republicans delayed consideration of the Financial Services appropriations bill for this week, and they pulled the Interior-Environment spending bill last week in an attempt to avoid a politically divisive vote on a Confederate battle flag amendment. But a complete hold on appropriations bills at this point in July, only two weeks away from the August recess, could mean that the appropriations season is officially over.
If Republicans and Democrats members are unable to find an agreement on the Confederate battle flag, and if Speaker Boehner will not put a spending bill on the floor until that issue is resolved, it will soon be September.
The House is scheduled to return from its summer break on Sept. 8, and there are only 10 legislative days in that month before the end of the current fiscal year.
With only six appropriations bills through the House chamber, and zero through the Senate, Congressional leaders could finally be looking at cutting a large spending deal to keep the government open.