A day after endorsing the start of President Donald Trump's plans to fund his wall along the southern border with Mexico, Republicans on a key House committee bluntly rejected White House plans for budget cuts in public health programs and medical research, releasing a spending bill for 2018 that gives the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control much more than the President proposed in his budget.
“This bill reflects Republican priorities to cut spending and focus investments in programs our people need the most – public health and medical research," said House Appropriations Chair Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) in a written statement.
While the draft bill would reduce spending overall on programs in the Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill by $5 billion, the plan pointedly goes against the President in a number of areas:
+ The Department of Health and Human Services would see a budget cut of $542 million from current funding levels, but that would still be $14.5 billion more than what was in Mr. Trump's budget request.
+ The big budget winner in this bill is the National Institutes of Health, which would see a $1.1 billion spending increase, $8.6 billion more than what the President had proposed for 2018.
+ The Centers for Disease Control would see a cut of $198 million, but would receive $1 billion more than the President's request, mainly by transferring $840 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was funded by the Obama health law.
The funding bill also went against the Trump White House in one other significant policy area, continuing funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at current levels - $445 million.
+ Other agencies getting more than the President's budget request include the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, which deals with drug abuse, opiods and more - funding would be $68 million more than Mr. Trump's budget, though $306 million below current budget levels.
+ Also seeing the same cut in current funding - but higher than the President's budget is the Health Resources and Services Administration, which deals with the Healthy Start program and others.
It's not clear if this specific funding bill will get a vote on the House floor any time soon, as Republicans have not been able to agree on a budget resolution, which sets the outline for spending plans in 2018; that plan is supposed to be finished by April 15.
"I want to make sure we get all the bills across the finish line," said Frelinghuysen, who is in his first term as the Appropriations Committee chair.
There are 12 individual funding bills - in recent years, most have been rolled into one giant, Omnibus funding measure, something that some Republicans have argued should be done now, rather than waiting until just before Christmas.
"It will be up to the leadership to decide," Frelinghuysen said of the schedule on spending measures.
No funding bills were on the House floor this week; the House is only scheduled to work two more weeks in July, and then be off until Labor Day in September, just a few weeks before the start of the new fiscal year.