Issues / Legislation

Week Ending September 20, 2019

Senate Holds Hearing on Scalia Nomination to be Secretary of Labor

Labor Department Nominee Eugene Scalia

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing this week on the nomination of Eugene Scalia to be secretary of the Department of Labor. Many questioned the appointment and demanded a new secretary, one who would represent workers and not just corporations.

What You Need to Know: Our nation’s workers and their families deserve a labor secretary who cares about their welfare and is single-mindedly focused on upholding values of equality, opportunity and prosperity. Scalia has fought against policies to protect workers’ safety, benefits and wages. AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued a statement opposing the Scalia nomination. He said, “We need a champion for working people in the Department of Labor who will advance standards that protect overtime pay, strengthen workplace safety and defend workers’ rights over corporate interests. AFSCME urges the Senate to reject this nomination.” A vote on the nomination is expected in the committee next week.

Avoiding a Government Shutdown

With the federal fiscal year about to end on September 30, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) introduced a short-term, stopgap funding bill known as a continuing resolution (CR), which continues funding at existing levels until November 21. 

What You Need to Know: The House passed the CR on Thursday on a vote of 301-123. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Advancing Appropriation Bills 

The Senate finally has started to advance fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills. Federal spending is important to AFSCME because the funding supports our members’ jobs in many fields, including education, social services, transportation and other critical public services. The Senate Committee on Appropriations released its FY 2020 Labor-HHS appropriations bill, which allocates $178.3 billion, a 1% increase over the FY 2019 enacted level. This is less than the Senate Democrats’ proposal ($181.6 billion) and the $191.7 billion bill passed by the House Labor-HHS committee. Some of the topline department funding levels are:

What You Need to Know: The Senate has not yet passed any of the FY 2020 funding bills and it’s unclear if this bill will be approved.

Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee

The Senate Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee passed its FY 2020 spending bill by unanimous consent. This bill provides $23.1 billion in discretionary funding, $58 million above the FY 2019 enacted level. Some of the spending levels for programs that provide nutrition assistance and affect AFSCME members are:

What You Need to Know: The Senate held a procedural vote on the House-passed spending bill (H.R. 2740), which includes four spending bills – Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Energy and Water, and State and Foreign Operations. This measure would have been used to make amendments to include the Senate’s spending proposals, but Senate Democrats blocked the bill from advancing to force negotiations over much-needed higher spending levels.

Sen. Casey Introduces Bill to Increase Funds for Child Care Meals

Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) introduced a bill, The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act of 2019, to strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which helps more vulnerable children in house day care programs to access healthy, nutritious food.

What You Need to Know: The House and Senate are preparing to update child nutrition programs, including CACFP. This bill establishes new, important priorities for child care meals. The Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee are expected to consider the legislation. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) plans to introduce the House companion to Casey’s bill, with support from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).