$1.3 Trillion Spending Package Approved by House, Includes $500 Million For Election Security

July 31, 2020 by Dan McCue
The U.S. Capitol. Feb. 4, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a $1.3 trillion spending package which includes bills to fund almost all of the federal government while providing an additional $500 million for election security.

The so-called minibus passed 217-197 in a largely party-line vote.

It includes spending bills for commerce, defense, education, energy and water, financial services and the general government, health and human services, housing and urban development, justice, labor, science, and transportation.

With the approval of the package, the House has now passed all but two of the 12 spending bills it had to endorse this year.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the bills passed Friday will fund 96% of the government for Fiscal year 2021 and avert the threat of another government shutdown.

“Not only does our appropriations package today provide robust funding for our national defense, but it also gives our troops a 3% pay raise and supports renaming installations currently named after Confederate officers,” he said.

Hoyer continued, “This bill helps our people meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 and its economic impacts by increasing funding to combat homelessness through public housing and assistance for tenants; expanding public health infrastructure; blocking funds from being used for a partisan lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act; and supporting critical research through the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our legislation also helps root out racial bias in policing by funding $400 million in police reform initiatives, and we are expanding funding to study the epidemic of gun violence in our country,” he said. “Meanwhile, our legislation expands Pell Grants, supports after-school programs, and increases funding for Head Start and preschool development, investing in America’s students to prepare the next generation for success. We are also funding a down payment on the INVEST in America Act that would invest substantial resources in infrastructure as well as providing support for Amtrak as it continues to serve the American people even during the uncertain days of this pandemic.”

The remaining bills, covering homeland security and the legislative branch, are not expected to be considered on the floor, due to disagreements in the chamber over the funding of the Immigration and Customs Authority and congressional pay.

“This appropriations package addresses urgent national priorities, making our country stronger and giving every person a better chance at a better life,” said retiring House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey of New York.

“The bill provides strong funding and protections to prioritize public health and safety, address police reform, invest in education and job training, expand access to safe, affordable, and fair housing, support service members and military families, and combat climate change and embrace a clean energy future,” she said. ” This package prioritizes the lives and livelihoods of the American people, and makes the strong investments needed to build a stronger future for every person.”

Significantly, given ongoing concerns over foreign interference in the November elections, the minibus includes $500 million in election security funds that will be funneled down to the states from the Election Assistance Commission.

States receiving the funding will be required to replace direct-recording electronic voting equipment with new systems that also include some kind of paper ballot.

States would only be allowed to use any remaining funds once they have certified to the EAC that all direct-recording election equipment has been replaced.

Speaking on the floor ahead of the vote, Rep. Mike Quickly, D-Ill., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on financial services and general government, said “this issue is especially relevant now, as states are currently facing the need to adjust their processes to accommodate conducting an election in the middle of a pandemic.”

More than half of the funding in the package is earmarked for national defense and includes a 3% pay raise for service members.

It also includes $758 million to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on subcontractors in the defense industrial base.

Democrats also included significant spending on COVID-19-related issues in the labor and health bill, including $5 billion in emergency spending for the National Institutes of Health and $9 billion in emergency funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another big ticket item in the package is infrastructure, which was funded to the tune of $26 billion.

The commerce, justice and science bill includes funding for NASA and the National Science Foundation and would also provide nearly $600 million to implement law enforcement reforms in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

While changes are expected in the Republican-controlled Senate, it is expected that many of the key elements of the House bills will form the basis of the final compromise bill.

A division-by-division summary of H.R. 7617 is available as a PDF here.

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