Final congressional action on FY '96 funding is underway. As you know, the current Continuing Resolution expires on March 15th, and Congress and the Administration are under enormous pressure to complete the FY '96 appropriations process so they can move on to FY '97 appropriations.
On Thursday, the House passed its version of an "omnibus" FY '96 appropriations bill, which covers funding for the programs in the Labor/HHS, VA/HUD, Commerce/State/Justice, and Interior appropriations bills. The Senate is expected to consider a separate version of an omnibus bill that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier last week. It is likely that once the Senate completes action on its version of this bill, Senate and House leadership will begin final negotiations with the White House in hopes of producing a "veto-proof" bill. It is unlikely these negotiations will be completed by March 15th, so congress will probably have to pass a short-term extension of the current CR, to give negotiators time to complete work on a final bill by late March.
The Administration has already threatened to veto an omnibus bill if it does not contain Administration "add-backs". Both the House-passed omnibus bill and Senate Appropriations Committee omnibus bill already include some of the Administration's add-backs, but many of these have been included on a "conditional" basis, meaning that the Administration and congress would have to pass additional legislation that identifies new money (from savings in entitlements, for example) or identifies offsets from other programs before the money for these "conditional" add-backs could be released.
This is a critical time. Final decisions about FY '96 funding are being made now.
What's in the House-Passed Omnibus Bill
Overall FY '96 funding for Labor-HHS programs in the House bill is increased 5.5 percent over fiscal year 1995. In contrast, overall FY '96 funding for VA-HUD programs in the House bill was decreased by 12 percent from FY 95.
The House bill passed by a slim 3- vote margin because of anti-abortion language which alienated moderates on the one hand and opposition from conservatives, on the other, to $3.3 billion in additional funding included to respond to the Administration's requests. The bill also includes a weakened version of the Istook amendment, which requires organizations receiving federal grants to disclose their annual lobbying expenditures.
As the chart below shows, AIDS programs generally held their own funding-wise in the House bill, and AIDS advocates were successful in getting the $52 million addition for ADAP. However, the AIDS Education & Training Centers (AETC's) only received $6 million in the House bill, $10.3 million less than FY 95. This amount is an improvement over the original House FY '96 L/H appropriations bill, which eliminated all funding for this important program, but $6 million still represents a cut of over 60 percent.
HOPWA: $171 million
McKinney/HAG: $823 million
Ryan White --
Title I: $379.5 million (23 million increase)
Title II: $250.1 million ($52 million increase earmarked for ADAP)
Title IIIB: $52 million
Title IV: $26.5 million ($.5 million increase)
What's in the Senate Omnibus bill?
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the FY '96 omnibus appropriations bill on Wednesday, March 6, and the full Senate will begin debate on this bill Monday, March 11 with votes occurring on Tuesday, March 12.
The Senate bill provides more money for Administration initiatives, but again, many of these programs are only funded "conditionally" (subject to the passage of additional legislation identifying offsets, new money, etc). Currently, the Senate bill does not contain anti-abortion language or other legislative riders.
Funding levels for AIDS programs, including HOPWA, Ryan White, and the AETCs, are the same as the levels in the House-passed bill (see above). However, although the Senate bill also earmarks a $52 million increase for the Title II ADAP program, the Senate bill put this $52 million in the "conditional" portion of the bill, meaning the money is not available until the Administration finds a funding cut in another program and additional legislation is passed. We are working aggressively to ensure that the House version regarding ADAP and the additional $52 million ultimately prevails, so these desperately-needed ADAP funds will be available as soon as the omnibus FY '96 appropriations bill is signed into law by the President.
The Senate bill also includes language giving the director of the Office for AIDS Research (OAR) at the NIH authority to transfer up to 3 percent of any Institute's AIDS allocation to respond to priorities identified in the AIDS research strategic plan. The House language is somewhat weaker and grants authority to transfer funding to the NIH director instead of the OAR director.
Call your Senators and Members of Congress. Tell them we urgently need a stable funding base for AIDS programs for this fiscal year. Urge them to ensure that the final version of the FY '96 omnibus bill unconditionally includes the $52 million for ADAP programs, so these funds are immediately accessible to states and people living with HIV/AIDS. Tell them they must provide at least $12 million for the AETC program, so that people with AIDS can be confident that their health care providers know how to treat HIV disease. Lastly, tell them that final negotiations must preserve, at a minimum, the funding levels set out in the House and Senate bills so far for all AIDS programs.
Call the White House. Tell them to aggressively negotiate with the Congressional leadership for funding for AIDS programs, including the AETC program, and to ensure that the ADAP funds are available to states when the bill is signed. Tell them not to trade away any funding for AIDS -related programs such as HOPWA in order to increase funding for other Administration priorities.
For more information, contact
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, Extension 3067