DOL Funding, Obama Policies Mostly Spared in Spending Bill

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By Chris Opfer

A bipartisan spending bill that would keep the government open through the end of September calls for a slight trim in Labor Department funding, without various Republican-backed riders to undo Obama administration policy initiatives.

The $1.1 trillion appropriations legislation, unveiled by appropriations committee members May 1, would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. It would reduce DOL discretionary spending by about $83 million from last year, down to $12.1 billion, while keeping funding levels steady for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ($364.5 million) and the National Labor Relations Board ($274.2 million).

The DOL’s spending cut is much less than the 21 percent decrease that President Donald Trump recently proposed for fiscal year 2018.

Lawmakers are expected to begin voting on the FY 2017 measure as early as May 3. A continuing resolution currently funding the federal government is set to expire two days later.

The Homeland Security Department would be authorized to lift the annual cap on visas for low-skilled, seasonal foreign workers under the measure. The bill would also extend health benefits for about 22,600 retired coal miners whose coverage under the United Mine Workers of America plan is in jeopardy.

Labor Spending Battle Likely

The bill doesn’t include a provision floated by House Republicans in a previous spending measure that would have blocked the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule. The DOL pushed back the rule, intended to limit retirement investment advisers’ conflicts of interest, until June, after President Donald Trump instructed the department to reconsider the regulation.

The legislation also doesn’t include a proposed rider to block the EEOC’s new pay data disclosure requirements.The agency wants employers with 100 or more workers to provide summary compensation data grouped by sex, race and ethnicity.

GOP-backed provisions to undo the NLRB’s decision to expand joint employer liability and recognize “micro-unions” for collective bargaining purposes were also left out of the bill. The joint employer liability issue is a hot-button one that could have a wide ranging impact on franchise, staffing and independent contractor arrangements. Republicans and employers say micro-union recognition is a handout to labor organizers who can’t convince full collective bargaining units to unionize.

Several of those riders could again be in play when lawmakers start considering funding bills for FY 2018. Negotiations over spending levels for next year are likely to once again be contentious, and Republicans in the Senate will need at least some Democratic support to get anything passed in that chamber.

The Trump administration is expected to release a detailed version of the president’s FY 2018 budget request before the end of the month.

—With assistance from Jasmine Ye Han.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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