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Senators Agree: No Increase for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding

On July 20, 2006, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2007 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) spending bill by voice vote. The Labor-HHS bill—which was approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education just two days earlier—totals $142.8 billion, which is $800 million above the House version of the bill. This bill decides funding levels for, among other things, abstinence-only-until-marriage funding streams, Title X family planning, and the Ryan White CARE Act.

Following the lead of the House Appropriations Committee,1 the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to continue to provide $176 million to federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding streams. This is level funding—the same amount as was granted in Fiscal Year 2006, post rescission2 —and means that the committee denied the President's request to increase funding for these programs. This is the first time, during this Administration, that these programs have ever received level funding.

The Labor-HHS spending bill includes the three federal funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs: the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grant program, the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA), and Title V. For Fiscal Year 2007, the President proposed increasing funding for these programs by $26 million to $204 million. The entire increase was slated for the CBAE account, by far the most restrictive of all the abstinence-only-until-marriage grant programs. (For more information, please see SIECUS ' full report It Gets Worse: A Revamped Federal Program Goes Extreme .)

Also of note regarding funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has once again included earmarks for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in his home state of Pennsylvania in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. This year, the earmarks for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Pennsylvania total $2.94 million and were taken from the “funds for child abuse discretionary activities.”3 (For more information, please see this month's policy update Specter Brings Pork Back to the Table.)

The budgets for the Ryan White Care Act and Title X were also decided under the same bill. The Ryan White CARE Act funds a variety of health and social programs across the country for those affected by HIV and AIDS.  Senate Appropriators granted the Ryan White CARE Act a $78 million increase, including $55 million more for the nation's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a $15 million increase for State AIDS spending, and slight increases for other CARE Act programs. The Title X family planning program, which provides primary health care as well as family planning services to millions of women, was flat-funded, for the third year in a row, at $283 million.

While the full House of Representatives was originally scheduled to vote on the Labor-HHS bill on June 21, 2006, it now appears that House Republican leaders are likely to postpone action on their $141.9 billion version of the Labor-HHS spending bill until September at the earliest. There is, however, still speculation that Republican leadership may want to hold off voting on the always contentious bill until after the November elections. The primary obstacle to the bill's moving forward has been the Democrat's attachment of an amendment that would increase the minimum wage by $2.10 per hour. Along with critiques of low funding levels from Democrats, the bill also faces criticism from various groups of Republican lawmakers—conservatives do not like the numerous earmarks on the bill; moderates argue that the bill underfunds education and health programs.4

Although the funding level of the Senate's version of the bill is higher than that of the House's, Senate Republicans may face similar problems with their own version of the Labor-HHS bill. While their bill contains $5 billion over what the White House requested, the bill is still $10.4 billion below levels approved by Congress two years ago when adjusted for inflation, according to Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA). “We are witnessing the disintegration of the appropriate federal role in worker safety, health, and education programs,” the Senator said.5 As with House passage of this bill, there is speculation that the matter may not be discussed further until after this November's election, if not next year, as part of a continuing resolution.6

References

  1. See previous policy update House Appropriations Committee Approves Level Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs.
  2. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2006 originally appropriated a total of $178 million in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. However, a one percent cut (rescission) was later applied to all discretionary Federal programs subject to annual appropriation. Abstinence-only-until-marriage funding streams for Fiscal Year 2006 totaled $176 million after the 1% rescission was enacted.
  3. “Senate Report 109-287-Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2007,” Library of Congress, Thomas, accessed 26 July 2006, <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&item=&&sid=cp109jQHLo&&refer=
    &&r_n=sr287.109&&dbname=cp109&&sid=cp109jQHLo&&sel=TOC_729816&
    >.
  4. “Even Absent Wage Provision, Labor-HHS Likely to Wait,” CongressDaily, 18 July 2006, 12.
  5. “Appropriations,” Congress Daily, 21 July 2006, 10.
  6. “Even Absent Wage Provision, Labor-HHS Likely to Wait.”

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