The House and Senate remain at odds over how to proceed with consideration of Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills. Over the last month, the U.S. House of Representatives completed consideration of 10 out of 12 spending bills in the form of two “minibuses” (H.R. 7608 and H.R. 7617), with the Legislative Branch and Homeland Security bills ultimately being pulled for a variety of political factors.
On July 24, 2020, as part of the second House minibus, the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill officially passed the House of Representatives. As was previously reported, the bill includes $1.76 billion for Job Corps, an increase of $12 million over the FY 2020 level and $740 million above the President’s Budget Request. The additional $12 million is allocated to the Construction, Rehabilitation and Acquisition account. With Congress operating under significant budgetary constraints in the current fiscal year, the increase, while modest, is a big win for Job Corps. Further, the statutory language protecting the Forest Service Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers from arbitrary closures was carried over from the FY 2020 bill. NJCA staff also worked directly with the House Appropriations Committee to address three policy priorities for our membership in the Committee report: Job Corps slot utilization, industry-standard training, and performance-based contracting.
In the U.S. Senate, appropriators have yet to begin their Committee markups for FY 2021. Senate Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over whether to consider more politically controversial amendments as part of the appropriations process, such as police reform and additional COVID-19 funding, which has gridlocked their process. Over the past few budget cycles, Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) mutually agreed not to pursue any political “poison pill” amendments, an agreement that has eluded both sides in FY 2021. Thus, the chamber remains in an indefinite holding pattern and as a result, none of the Senate’s FY 2021 appropriations bills have been circulated publicly.
With the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2020) fast approaching, the expectation remains that a continuing resolution (CR) will be needed to fund the government until after the November election. Chairman Shelby has indicated that he may attempt to attach a CR to the next round of coronavirus relief, if such a measure is eventually considered.