Labor Spending Bill Advances in Senate

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By Tyrone Richardson

Senate appropriators advanced a government funding bill that rejects many Trump administration proposed cuts to discretionary spending for the Labor Department, the NLRB, and related agencies.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations Sept. 7 approved the FY 2018 Labor-HHS spending bill, moving the measure a step closer to a possible floor vote. Meanwhile, the House was still considering several amendments to a “minibus” spending bill that includes its version of the Labor-HHS legislation.

The Senate bill would fund the DOL at $12 billion, a roughly 1.6 percent reduction from this year, and hold the National Labor Relations Board’s allotment at its current level of $274 million. That differs from the White House’s request for a nearly 20 percent spending reduction for the DOL and a roughly 6 percent reduction for the NLRB.

The bill is without any labor-related policy riders seen in the House version. It also “rejects” the Trump administration’s proposal to merge the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a DOL subagency in charge of monitoring federal contractors’ affirmative action and nondiscrimination compliance.

Both Republican and Democratic Senate appropriators Sept. 7 described the Labor-HHS bill as a “compromise” amid issues such as allocation caps.

“This bill upholds important investments in programs that affect all Americans,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), adding that it “continues support” to improve education and “job training opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed.”

Democratic Amendment Fails

The full committee’s approval came after Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) failed to garner enough votes for a proposed amendment that would have added more funds for DOL job training programs, in addition to creating a paid leave initiative.

The committee is recommending $3.3 billion for the DOL’s employment and training services, a $3.5 million reduction from the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

Before the vote, Murray described the proposed spending bill as “underfunded on job training and education.” Her amendment failed on a 16-15 vote.

The Labor-HHS bill essentially maintains many DOL funding levels in the FY 2017 legislation. Some differences include:

  • $284 million for Veterans Employment and Training, a $5 million increase from FY 2017;
  • $1.7 billion for Job Corps, a $5 million decrease from FY 2017;
  •  $790 million for federal unemployment benefits and allowances, a $59 million decrease from FY 2017;
  •  $3.4 billion for state unemployment insurance and employment service, a $61 decrease from FY 2017;
  •  $40.1 million for the Office of Labor-Management Standards, a $2 million increase from FY 2017;
  •  $103.4 million for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, a $1 million decrease from FY 2017;
  •  $336 million departmental management salaries and expenses, a $2 million increase from FY 2017; and
  •  $86.1 million for the Bureau of of International Labor Affairs, which is practically unchanged from FY 2017 and rejects Trump’s proposal to cut its grant programs.

Senate Labor-HHS Bill Is Rider-Free

In addition to differences from the requests of the White House, the Senate funding bill is different from the House version.

The House version would cut 11 percent from DOL and NLRB funding. It also includes a number of labor-related policy riders, including one to undo the Browning-Ferris decision on joint employment.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) has told Bloomberg BNA that he expected that the Senate’s Labor-HHS bill would not include the labor-related policy riders that are peppering the House version of the funding bill.

The Senate bill will eventually have to be reconciled with the House version. Similar riders have largely been dropped from funding legislation as it moved through Congress in recent years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

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

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

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