September 30, 2018

Legislation would fund government through Dec. 7

A fiscal year 2019 conference report providing full-year funding for the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education − which was signed President Trump on Sept. 28 − also includes a continuing resolution to ensure that the entire federal government will be funded through Dec. 7.

The signing of the legislation, P.L. 115-245 (H.R. 62157), prevented parts of the government from shutting down on Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

Earlier this month on Sept. 21, the president signed P.L. 115-244 (H.R. 5895), which provides full-year funding for Energy and Water Development, the Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs. Congress has not yet given final approval to other fiscal year 2019 bills that would fund the rest of the government, including H.R. 6147 (Agriculture, Financial and General Government, Interior, and Transportation/HUD) and H.R. 5952 (Commerce, Justice and Science).

In addition to extending funding for the government, P.L. 115-245 includes provisions to authorize funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) through Dec. 7. VAWA, first enacted in 1994 and last reauthorized in 2013, was set to expire Sept 30. Neither the House nor Senate has acted this Congress on proposals to reauthorize the law, which is supported by the ABA and aimed at ending violence against women and remedying the laws and social practices that have fostered and justified the history of violence against women.

H.R. 6545, a reauthorization bill introduced in July by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), includes provisions to expand sexual harassment training for employers, place more emphasis on addressing the health consequences of violence, and focus more attention on early intervention for children growing up in violent homes. The bill also would expand gun control laws to prohibit possession of firearms by individuals convicted of dating violence and stalking and those under protective orders. Also expanded in the bill would be tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians who have often gone unpunished for their crimes. Tribes would be able to prosecute stalking, sex trafficking and sexual violence.

The HHS provisions in P.L. 115-245 include language addressing the care of unaccompanied children, including those who were separated from their parents at the U.S. border under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy. The legislation directs the Department of Homeland Security to submit a plan to Congress by Nov. 15, 2018, to properly facilitate reunification of the children with their parents. The provisions also require unaccompanied child to be assessed properly before any medications are administered.

Another provision states that the conferees expect the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement to ensure that legal services providers for the children are qualified, independent and free from conflicts of interest.