Senate Democrats

Conference report on H.R. 2918, the Legislative Branch Appropriations and Continuing Resolution

Summary and Background

The Conference Report on H.R.2918, if enacted, would provide for Legislative Branch Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010 and a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through October 31, 2009.

The Legislative Branch conference report is noncontroversial and bipartisan, holding spending to a fiscally responsible 3.5 percent increase (far below the 14.5 percent request), with increases dedicated to enhancing security and upgrading government services and access to government information.

With the current fiscal year ending on September 30, 2009, the Congress must pass a one month continuing resolution (CR) that will ensure that all necessary and vital functions of government may continue uninterrupted until the full Congress completes its work on the annual appropriations bills.  The CR will fund the bulk of federal government programs at Fiscal year 2009 levels, providing an increase in veterans health care needed for the many veterans returning from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, ramping up funding for the upcoming 2010 Census, ban funds for ACORN, and extending authorizations for a handful of expiring programs (such as stop loss payment to troops, surface transportation and FAA, child nutrition, and housing).

The Senate is expected to consider the Conference Report on H.R.2918 the week of September 28.

Major Provisions

Division A:  Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2010

The Conference Report would provide $4.656 billion for operations of the legislative branch, an increase of $155 million, or 3.5 percent, over the amounts appropriated for legislative branch agency operations in 2009.  This would include funding for the:

U.S. House of Representatives.  The Conference Report would provide $1.369 billion, $68 million above 2009 and $128 million below the Administration’s request.  This includes funding for:

·         Members’ Representational Allowance:  $660 million to cover the annual budgets of Members’ offices and account for the increased cost of providing constituent services.  Language continues in the bill as in previous years mandating that any amounts not used will go back to the Treasury for deficit reduction.

·         Wounded Warrior:  $2.5 million, derived from prior year appropriations, to continue the Wounded Warrior Program, which provides employment opportunities for disabled veterans in House offices.

·         Continuity and Disaster Recovery:  $25 million to build response capabilities to ensure that Members of the House can continue to govern and provide services for constituents after disasters.

U.S. Senate:  The Conference Report would provide $926 million for operations of the Senate, an increase of $31 million, or 3.4 percent over Fiscal Year 2009, and $83 million below the Administration’s request.

Architect of the Capitol:  TheConference Report would provide $602 million, $72 million above 2009 and $43 million below the Administration’s request, with a special emphasis on funding life safety and rehabilitation of critical infrastructure.  

Congressional Budget Office:  TheConference Report would provide $45 million, $1 million above 2009 and $1.2 million below the Administration’s request, including funds to build CBO’s capacity to analyze health care, financial, and housing issues.

Government Accountability Office:  TheConference Report would provide $557 million, $26 million above 2009 and $10.6 million below the request, allowing GAO to expand its staff to strengthen Congressional oversight efforts.

Library of Congress:  TheConference Report would provide $643 million, $36 million above 2009 and $15 million below the Administration’s request, including $15 million to fund the first year of the Library’s five year information technology initiative.

Government Printing Office:  TheConference Report would provide $147 million, $6 million above 2009 and $19 million below the Administration’s request, including $7 million to continue the development of GPO’s electronic system to improve access to U.S. government information.

Capitol Police:  TheConference Report would provide $328.3 million, $22 million above 2009 and $82 million below the Administration’s request, including funds to complete the Library of Congress Police merger.  This funding level maintains the force at the fiscal year 2009 officer level of 1,799 positions and increases the police civilian staffing level to 444 positions.

Office of Compliance:  TheConference Report would provide$4.4 million, $300,000 above 2009 and $100,000 below the Administration’s request, allowing the Office of Compliance to maintain its current service levels and augment its staff.

Open World:  TheConference Report would provide $12 million, $1.9 million below 2009 and $2.5 million below the request.

Division B:  Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2010

Division B of the Conference Report would allow continued government operations through October 31, 2009.  This would include funding for: 

Ongoing programs

Under the CR, funding will continue at Fiscal Year 2009 levels for most programs in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-8); the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009 (P.L. 110-329); and all supplemental appropriations for defense in Fiscal Year 2009.

VA medical programs

The Veterans Health Administration estimates it will treat more than 6.1 million patients in 2010, including more than 419,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (56,000 more than 2009).  To ensure that the VA can provide our veterans the care they need, the CR would allows three medical accounts – medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities – to operate for the duration of the CR at a total annual rate of $44.3 billion, $3.85 billion above Fiscal Year 2009 levels.

The Census

To accommodate the ramping up of activities in preparation for the 2010 census, the CR would allow the Census Bureau’s periodic censuses and programs account to operate at an annual rate of $7.065 billion, $3.87 billion above Fiscal Year 2009 levels.

ACORN

The Conference Report would prohibit any funds made available by the CR or any prior Act from being provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.

Postal Service

To cover a budget shortfall, the CR would allow the Postal Service to reduce a payment designed to prefund retiree health benefits.

Extended Authorizations

The CR would extend authorizations through October 31, 2009 for certain programs that would otherwise expire, including:

·         Intelligence programs and counter-drug activities;

·         Guantanamo Bay restrictions;

·         Stop-loss payments to U.S. troops;

·         Child nutrition programs;

·         Surface and aviation transportation programs;

·         Housing programs, including the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund, the Government;

·         National Mortgage Association, HOPE VI, and FHA Home Equity Conversion;

·         Mortgages at a slightly reduced formula;

·         Flood insurance and pre-disaster mitigation programs;

·         Religious worker, physician, and investor visa programs;

·         E-verify;

·         The Chemical Facility Security Program; and

·         The Ryan White Program.

Legislative History

H.R.2919 was introduced in the House on June 17, 2009, and reported by the House Committee on Appropriations the same day as an original measure (H.Rept. 1160) by Rep. Wasserman Schultz.  On June 19, 2009, the House passed H.R.2919 by a 232-178 vote (Roll no. 413). 

The measure was received in the Senate on June 22, and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders (Calendar No. 84).  On July 6, 2009 the Senate passed H.R.2919, with an amendment, by a 67-25 vote (Record Vote Number: 217), and appointed conferees to the measure, including Senators Nelson (NE); Inouye, Pryor, Tester, Murkowski, and Cochran.

On September 24, conferees filed the Conference Report (H. Rept. H.R.265%29:" target="_blank">111-265).  On September 25, the House agreed to the Conference Report by a 217-190 vote (Roll no. 739).

The Senate is expected to consider this measure on September 29, 2009.

Amendments

The Conference Report is subject to an up or down vote only, and is not open for amendment.

Administration Position

As of this writing, the Administration has not released a Statement of Administration Policy related to the Conference Report to H.R.2918.

Resources

Congressional Research Service, Legislative Branch: FY2010 Appropriations, available here.

Congressional Research Service, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill: Structure, Content, and Process, available here.

Congressional Research Service, Duration of Continuing Resolutions in Recent Years, available here.

Congressional Research Service, Continuing Resolutions: Latest Action and Brief Overview of Recent Practices, available here.

Congressional Research Service, Interim Continuing Resolutions (CRs): Potential Impacts on Agency Operations, available here.

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