7 Things Congress Saved from the Administration’s Axe

Categories: Budget, The Insider

Congress has passed a funding bill that keeps the government running until the end of this fiscal year. As it turns out, lawmakers largely ignored the Administration’s wish list of massive cuts. Several programs targeted by the administration actually got a budget increase or just a slight decrease. That's because Congress has considerable agenda-setting power with the federal budget. 

Even though the budget that just passed is for the remainder of 2017 and most cuts on the administration’s wish list are for next year, it signals that Congress may not just rubber stamp the White House’s 2018 budget proposal. It also shows that public opinion can play a positive role in policy making. Science and climate marches, letters, and calls from AFGE members and others undoubtedly sent a message to Congress that people care deeply about our government and investment in America. 

"They wanted to take everything away, but we put up a good fight and beat back devastating cuts to most agencies," said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. "We won the first round, but the fight has just begun for the 2018 budget. It won't be easy considering how the president has praised the merits of a government shutdown, but AFGE will be there every step of the way to make sure our government is fully funded."     
Here are 7 areas that AFGE and Congress disagreed with the administration and saved key programs from the axe: 

1. Our Health and the Environment

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has been one of the administration’s prime targets for deep reductions. It has proposed to cut the workforce by 4,000 and has already sent out buyout and early-out notices, but the 2017 funding bill passed by Congress doesn’t mandate a workforce reduction. In fact, the workforce will remain at the current level of about 15,000. The agency’s budget, which had been targeted for $247 million in cuts this year, would instead be trimmed by $81 million, or about 1 percent.    

2. Medical Research

The administration had proposed to cut the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s funding by $1.2 billion in 2017, but Congress gave the agency $2 billion more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s budget also went up $22 million. 
Rep. Tom Cole, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing NIH funding, said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed that it’s important to fund medical research.    

3. Aviation Safety

Aviation safety got a boost too. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will receive $7.8 billion, which is $331 million more than 2016. This includes $38.6 million to hire 1,396 additional Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) as opposed to a few hundred called for by the administration. The administration had also proposed to eliminate the Behavior Detection Officer Program, but the bill did not. 

4. Arts and Humanities

Instead of eliminating the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities like the administration had proposed, Congress actually gave the endowments $2 million more. Each of the endowments gets $150 million. 

5. Housing

The Department of Housing and Urban Development will receive $38.8 billion, an increase of $531 million. The Community Development Block Grants program will receive the same funding as last year -- $3 billion. The administration had asked for $6 billion in cuts to HUD and the elimination of the Community Development Block Grants program. 

6. Higher-Education

Even though the Department of Education’s overall budget went down, Congress pushed back against the administration’s proposed cuts to higher education programs. Two college preparation programs for low-income students TRIO and GEAR UP, for example, got a budget increase whereas the administration had targeted them for millions of dollars in cuts. Pell Grants’ maximum awards have been increased to $5,935. The bill also expands the Pell Grant program to year round as opposed to grants only awarded twice a year. The administration had proposed to cut $1.3 billion from the Pell Grant program. 

7. Global Stability

Congress gave the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) $1.6 billion, an increase of $82 million. The administration had called for cuts of one to two-thirds in funding to the agency. The cuts would have eliminated 30-35 USAID field missions that help provide stability in volatile regions and enhance U.S. presence in strategic areas. USAID currently operates in about 100 countries. Congress also provided $24.7 billion for bilateral assistance to foreign countries to support global health, humanitarian assistance, and global stability.  

Areas Both Congress and the Administration Are Not so Far Apart 

Border security: The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will receive $11.4 billion, an increase of $137 million. It will also receive an additional $772 million as requested by the administration to improve and maintain existing infrastructure, technology investments, and increased Border Patrol agent hiring. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will receive $6.4 billion, an increase of $550 million. 

Defense: The Department of Defense's budget got a boost too. Congress provided $593 billion, an increase of $20 billion. This is a bit below the administration's request of $30 billion in supplemental funding but an increase nonetheless.

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