Senate Passes $854 Billion Funding Bill for Health, Education, and Defense

Late last week, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of an $854 billion spending bill that funds huge swaths of the federal government, including $675 billion in defense funding and additional funds for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and other agencies.

As noted by the Associated Press, “with the vote, the Senate has passed nine of the 12 mandatory spending bills for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. That’s a marked departure from recent years, when individual spending measures were routinely ignored in favor of giant spending packages that fund the entire government.”

In another positive sign that is a marked departure from recent years, “Senate leaders from both parties have agreed to avoid attaching so-called poison pill proposals to spending legislation to ensure passage.”

Still, according to Politico’s Sarah Ferris, the efforts could be for naught, as “the odds remain long that the legislation will even make it to the White House, with just 11 working days left for House and Senate lawmakers to merge opposing versions of the bills — and get Trump’s approval — before funding runs out,” a timeline that is especially notable given the president’s threats to shut down the government in October if his proposed border wall project doesn’t receive sufficient funding.

A few of the provisions that received the most attention throughout the process are the 2.6 increase in military pay and a 5 percent increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the fourth consecutive increase for the agency, with the increase focused on a boost to research into Alzheimer’s disease, “essentially quadrupling spending levels from four years ago on a disease that requires hundreds of billions of dollars for dementia-related care.”

AP cites Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Roy Blunt, who explained that the United States should aim to find a long-term solution to Alzheimer’s before 2050, otherwise “we will be spending about twice today’s defense budget on Alzheimer’s care.”

The spending bill passed in a bipartisan manner by a vote of 85-7.

Posted in From the Hill

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