Senate’s Government Funding Bill Heads to Appropriations Committee

The U.S. Capitol at sunrise. (AP file photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (CN) – A $24 billion general government funding measure made it through a Senate subcommittee Tuesday, and the Senate Committee on Appropriations Thursday will deliberate whether to send the bill to the chamber’s floor.  

The FY2020 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act – which funds the U.S. Treasury Department, the Executive Office of the President as well as numerous independent agencies – recommends a $773 million funding increase from the previous year.

The bill, which provides more than $24 billion to related agencies, is also $251 million higher than the budget requested by President Donald Trump. 

The House Committee on Appropriations passed its version of the bill in June.

The Senate’s bill will provide a more than $11 billion allotment to the Internal Revenue Service, chiefly to the taxpayer enforcement arm of the agency, to address the nearly $400 billion annual gap for unpaid taxes in the country. 

Additionally, the bill will send more than $312 million to the Federal Trade Commission, $339 million to the Federal Communications Commission and $274 million to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 

Senator John Kennedy, R-La., who chairs the subcommittee, said some of the $29 million of funding allotted to the Treasury Department will help the organization digitize its records of U.S. savings bonds, some of which have never been redeemed.

Kennedy said the Treasury Department is sitting on nearly $24 billion of these matured bonds, because the group cannot share the addresses and names of the holders of the bonds. Returning this money to Americans is a priority, he said.

“In fact, I’m not sure that we could have won World War II without the American people buying bonds,” Kennedy said. “They have the names and they have the addresses, but they don’t want to share the information with the states or with anybody for that matter, so we can return this money … In Kansas, the Department of Treasury is sitting on $209 million. In West Virginia, they’re sitting on $132 million.”

The bill will not provide funding for election security grants, which in 2018, were funded at $380 million. Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., the subcommittee’s vice chairman, said he would offer an amendment at the full committee’s hearing Thursday to attempt to provide some level of funding for election security.

“States have made real progress in spending that money on critical improvements and while the 2018 election went very well and our national security and our election security was protected, and while I am a strong advocate for retaining state and local control of elections, I do think, given my own state’s experience and given the demonstrated action of some of our foreign adversaries in undermining our elections that additional investments are called for,” Coons said. “But I will leave that discussion for the full committee.”

Other highlights of the bill include $673 million in federal payments to the District of Columbia, some of which will provide resources for public safety and security at national events. Senator Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said it was important to support the people of D.C. with these funds.

“I think we would all agree that it’s not fair to ask the people of the District of Columbia to pay the cost for the entire country when it comes to federal and national events,” Van Hollen said. “That’s the responsibility of all of us, not just the people of the District of Columbia.”

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