Last week, the full House Appropriations Committee approved a bill to provide FY 2019 funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. In total, the draft bill includes $177.1 billion in discretionary funding, essentially the same as the 2018 enacted level. It provides a total of $38.3 billion for NIH, an increase of $1.25 billion above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $4.1 billion above the President’s budget request. Among the various NIH programs that received an increase is the Gabriella Miller “Kids First” pediatric cancer research initiative. Also of note: the bill provides $655 million for the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, an increase of $3 million over the fiscal year 2018 enacted level, and $12.3 billion for IDEA special education grants to states, an increase of $50 million over the fiscal year 2018 enacted level, which will maintain the federal share of special education funding to states. The bill does not include additional funding to implement Affordable Care Act programs, prohibits funds for the “Navigators” program, and prohibits the collection of user fees from the Health Insurance Exchanges. The bill also includes the longstanding prohibition against using federal funds to advocate or promote gun control.
During the markup, Members from both parties offered amendments related to the separation of immigrant families. Adopted were amendments: to require HHS to submit a plan to reunify immigrant children with their parents; to clarify standards for family detention; to permit detention of families as a unit; to support efforts to house immigrant children who are siblings together; to prohibit the administration of medication to unaccompanied alien children unless certain conditions deem such medication medically necessary; to require an Inspector General report on family separation and reunification politics; to reaffirm HHS statutory responsibilities for unaccompanied alien children; to direct $10 million to fund mental health services for children separated from their families at the border; to prohibit funding for HHS to use questions of religion in the process of family reunification; to require a report on pre-literate unaccompanied alien children; to protect personal and genetic information of children and adults if used in the process of family reunification; and to require a report on the mental health of separated children.