Congress approved five of twelve appropriations bills by the time the 2019 fiscal year began on October 1. While that might not seem like a major accomplishment, it had not been accomplished in 22 years. These bills include funding for the Department of Education, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Library of Congress.
Instead of passing a massive omnibus bill funding the entire federal government, Congress this year chose to bundle agencies in smaller bills known as a “minibus.” On September 28, President Trump signed into law a minibus that combined FY 19 appropriations bills for the Defense Department, and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. It includes a continuing resolution that extends current funding levels through December 7 for the federal agencies covered under the remaining seven appropriations bills. About three-quarters of the roughly $1.33 trillion in discretionary spending authority for FY 2019 was appropriated by the start of the fiscal year.
This minibus includes level funding for the Department of Education’s Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs at $65.1 million and $7.1 million, respectively. It also included a major boost for the K-12 history and civics programs at the Department of Education, despite President Trump’s threat to eliminate them. The American History and Civics grants program received an over 75% increase from $1.7 million to $3 million. The Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics received level funding at $1.8 million. This marks an increase for the two programs from $3.5 million in FY 18 to $4.8 million in FY 19. Separately, the Library of Congress received a healthy funding increase from $669.8 million last year to $696.1 million in FY 19. Finally, the Institute of Museum and Library Services received a small $2 million increase up to $242 million.
Congress came close to passing an additional minibus that would have included the Agriculture, Interior and Environment, Financial Services, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills, but negotiations broke down as the fiscal year expired. That minibus includes funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Park Service, National Archives and National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and Smithsonian Institution. The attached chart shows the House and Senate-passed numbers for those agencies to get a sense of their likely funding levels.
The House is now in recess until November 13. Obviously, the possibility exists that the Democrats may take control of the Senate and/or House in the November 6 elections which would make passage of the remaining appropriations bills more difficult in what would likely be a contentious lame-duck session.
To summarize across the board, history, archival and education programs were, or likely will be, either level funded or receive small increases. This should be considered a major victory, since the president had proposed eliminating the NEH, the IMLS, the NHPRC and other programs.