The House and Senate passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending measure that would boost funding for defense and domestic programs early in the morning on Friday, March 23rd, almost 24 hours before the deadline to fund the government would have expired. President Trump signed the measure into law that afternoon. The bipartisan measure is consistent with the two-year budget caps deal Congress reached in February which allowed for $80 billion more in defense spending and $63 billion more for nondefense programs. Congress will return to their districts for the two week Easter recess
FY 2018 Justice Department and Homeland Security Funding in Spending Bill
In FY 2018 the Justice Department would receive $30.3 billion which is $1.35 billion more than in FY 2017 and $1.97 billion more than requested. Major divisions would be funded as follows:
- The FBI would receive $9,400.2 million, $393.8 million more than FY 2017
- The Federal Prison System would receive $7,278.3 million, $136.8 million more than FY 2017
- The U.S. Marshals Service would receive $2,900.9 million, $187.4 million more than FY 2017
- The Drug Enforcement Administration would receive $2,190.3 million, $87.4 million more than FY 2017
- State and local law enforcement activities would receive $2,442.3 million, $374.5 million more than FY 2017
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would receive $1,293.8 million, $35.2 million more than FY 2017
The Homeland Security Department would receive a net $47.7 billion in discretionary funds subject to spending caps, which is $5.32 billion more than in fiscal 2017 and $3.72 billion more than requested. Additional discretionary funds would include $7.37 billion in disaster relief spending for the Disaster Relief Fund. Funding for major DHS agencies and programs would be allocated as follows:
- Customs and Border Protection would receive $14,017.5 million which is $1,830.6 million more than FY 2017
- Federal Emergency Management Agency would receive $12,309.0 million, $913.5million more than FY 2017
- Coast Guard would receive $12,107.7 million, $1,653.2 more than FY 2017
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would receive $7,075.9 million, $640.6 more than FY 2017
- Transportation Security Administration would receive $4,925.4 million, $260.8 less than FY 2017
- Secret Service would receive $2,006.5 million, $39.1 million less than FY2017
President’s FY2019 Budget Request
In February, the Trump administration released its $4.4 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2019. President Trump’s budget blueprint sought to slash spending on domestic programs for energy research, arts and humanities and even some major infrastructure initiatives. The proposal called for $540 billion in non-military discretionary spending, shy of the $597 billion limit for the year starting October 1 that Congress passed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act the week before the President’s blueprint was released. In the budget proposal, the Administration wished to allocate $14.2 billion for federal law enforcement agencies, which included $2.2 billion for the Drug Enforcement Administration to address the opioid crisis, as well as $739 million for prisoner reentry programs to prevent recidivism. The White House blueprint has already been overtaken by two-year budget deal passed by Congress the week before, which increased spending for both the military and domestic programs.
Supreme Court Case Janus v. AFSCME
In late February the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in a case (Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31) that could possibly handicap the power of public unions in America.
The plaintiff, Mark Janus, is an Illinois social worker who is against paying fees to his union, but is covered under a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the AFSCME, and is legally required to pay a fee to cover the cost of representing him. There are laws in 22 states which allow public unions to require that public employees who are not union members to pay agency fees, so that even public employees who are not members benefit from the collective bargaining of that union. The defendant in the case, AFSCME, believes that without the ability of unions to charge agency fees, unions would be spending a great deal of time and money negotiating contracts that benefits both members of unions and non-union members. AFSCME argues that this creates the problem of non-union “free-riders” or workers who benefit from the union’s collective bargaining efforts but don’t pay for them.
The last time the Supreme Court considered fair-share fees for public workers in 2016, the court split the decision 4-4 which upheld the fee’s legality but left the door open for further challenges. The court’s decision on Janus v. AFSCME will likely be decided in the early summer of 2018.
House Passes Bill for Local Law Enforcement Agencies to Combat Gang Violence
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3249 the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act, which aims to curb the rise in gang activity in the United States. This bill establishes the Project Safe Neighborhoods Block Grant Program within the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs to improve existing partnerships to create safer neighborhoods through sustained reductions in crimes committed by criminal street gangs and transnational organized crime groups. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by the President, the block grant created will authorize $50 million annually for FY 2018 through FY2020.
Attorney General Sessions Announces New Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a new effort, the Department of Justice Prescription Interdiction & Litigation (PIL) Task Force, to fight the prescription opioid crisis. The PIL Task Force will aggressively coordinate all available criminal and civil law enforcement tools to reverse the tide of opioid overdoses with a particular focus on opioid manufacturers and distributors. At the manufacturer level, the PIL Task Force will use all available criminal and civil remedies available under federal law to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for unlawful practices.
The task force will also aim to build on existing Department of Justice initiatives to ensure that opioid manufacturers are marketing their products truthfully and in accordance with Food and Drug Administration rules. In addition, the task force will examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine what assistance, if any, federal law can provide in those lawsuits.
Selected Michigan Delegation Updates
Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI-5) introduced bipartisan legislation, along with Republican Congressman John Duncan (TN-02), so that public safety employees, including police, firefighters and EMS personnel, are able to exercise their labor rights. The legislation, H.R.4846 the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, would give police the right to form a labor union and collectively bargain with their employer on wages and hours.
Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI-06) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) announced they have been named Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Working Group on Response to Parkland Shooting. The working group exists as part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, of which they are both members. The Problem Solvers Caucus is a bipartisan group in Congress comprised of 48 members – equally divided between Republicans and Democrats – who are committed to forging bipartisan cooperation on key issues.
Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI-07) who is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, held a joint hearing in February on how the opioid epidemic is affecting workplaces, communities, and the lives of working Americans across the country.