Photo copyright Josh Stearns / All rights reserved
The Washington Monument in the District of Columbia on April 24, 2019 (Photo copyright Josh Stearns / All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON (UPDATED) — After more than a 20-year hiatus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would receive funding for firearm injury and mortality prevention research under a budget plan supported by a House Appropriations subcommittee led by Representative Rosa DeLauro.

The research money is included in an appropriations bill that was approved by her panel on a voice vote Tuesday. It would provide $189.8 billion in discretionary funding in the next fiscal year to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.

Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, spoke in favor of some of the additional spending in the bill but said there are some troublesome provisions that will face a challenge when the legislation comes before the full committee. He plans to offer amendments at that point.

Among other things, the bill includes $25 million for the CDC and $25 million for the National Institutes of Health to fund firearm injury and mortality prevention research. It’s been more than two decades since Congress included specific funding for the CDC to conduct such research.

“Gun violence killed 40,000 Americans last year. Experts have told us there is a need for public health research, that both the CDC and the NIH have the authority to conduct this research. So, now we are providing $50 million. Our public health agencies can and must help us understand strategies to reduce firearm injury and death,” DeLauro said.

Republicans last month said they were wary of providing new money for gun research, claiming Democrats are trying to score political points because the CDC already has the authority to study gun violence. However, the CDC, which collects data on gun violence injuries, said it’s limited in what it can do without more money. A 2018 budget deal clarified that the federal government can study gun violence, as long as it doesn’t use the research to promote gun control, according to Politico.

The subcommittee’s $189.8 billion spending proposal for 2020 represents an $11.7 billion increase over current funding and $47.8 billion more than President Donald Trump requested in his 2020 budget. DeLauro has called Trump’s proposal “cruel” and “reckless,” saying it would do irreparable damage to critical social safety net programs such as Social Security and Early Head Start.

Cole, however, said that Democrats had crafted their bill in a vacuum, including additional spending that won’t be acceptable in the Republican-controlled Senate or by President Trump. Congress has not agreed to a “top line” budget number nor set budget targets for the 12 appropriations bills that establish fiscal year spending.

“I fear this is setting us up for a scenario for a year-long continuing resolution or another government shutdown. We need to come together to hammer out a top-line number before we cut up the pie,” Cole said.

DeLauro acknowledged there is no budget agreement yet but she is hopeful there will be “bipartisan buy-in” to the increased spending in her bill that answers more than 90 percent of the requests made by Democrats and Republicans.

She also noted that the bill sought to avoid a major contentious item — leaving in place the “Hyde amendment” that blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services. While DeLauro opposes the restriction, she said that overturning it now would result in a presidential veto of the spending bill.

Cole agreed, but voiced concerns with other language in the bill that would allow for Planned Parenthood and other providers of abortion services to receive federal funding such as teen pregnancy prevention grants.

Among the highlights of the spending bill are increased spending for:

• early childhood education, child care, public schools, and higher education programs like Pell Grants and the Federal Work Study program;

• workforce training, apprenticeship programs, and worker protection programs at the Wage and Hour Division and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and;

• medical research at National Institutes of Health, public health and food safety infrastructure at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and women’s health.

“Through billions in smart, increased investments, our bill will help people across the country at every stage of their life. I look forward to passing it into law,” DeLauro said.

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The Labor-HHS-Education bill is the largest non-defense appropriations bill. It will be the first of 12 annual appropriations bills to be considered by the Appropriations Committee for fiscal 2020.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey supports the proposal.

“Not only does this bill resoundingly reject the proposed cuts in President Trump’s budget that would have hurt working families, it provides a robust increase in funding for important national priorities that create jobs and grow the economy, improve health security, and build a stronger future for all Americans,” she said.

Bill Summary:

• $99 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services — $2 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $6.9-billion above the President’s budget request.

• $75.9 billion for the Department of Education — $4.4 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $11.9 billion above the President’s budget request. It includes $21 million for Special Olympics education programs. The Trump administration had proposed eliminating the program.

• $13.3 billion for the Department of Labor — $1.2 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $2.4 billion above the President’s budget request. Much of the additional funding would go to job training programs.