House Labor HHS Funding Bill Sets Dangerous Course for the American Workplace

Statement of Keith Wrightson, Worker Safety and Health Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is marking up the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill today. If it becomes law, the draft legislation (PDF), which passed through the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, would hinder the ability of many of critical agencies to do their jobs. These include the Department of Labor (DOL), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). For example, the legislation would delay stronger oversight by OSHA of American workplaces. Unfortunately, it is expected that the funding legislation will pass – on strict party lines.

The House majority is stacking this legislation with inappropriate policy riders and providing far less funding than necessary to appropriately support the agencies under its purview.

Included in the underlying bill are seriously damaging and ideological policy riders, including:

  • $11.7 billion in funding for the DOL, which is $206 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $1.4 billion below the president’s request.
  • $535 million in funding for OSHA. This is nearly $18 million less than the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and more than $57 million less than the fiscal year 2016 request.
  • $371 million for MSHA, which is $4.9 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $23.9 million below the budget request.
  • A prohibition on the DOL spending any funds to finalize or implement a recently proposed rule that would reduce financial professionals’ conflicts of interest.
  • A provision restricting the interpretation of laws and regulations governing OSHA “walk around” inspections.

We urge the full House to vote down this reckless legislation. Provisions that undercut consumer financial and worker protections should not be part of essential government funding legislation. The House should protect our workers and reject this bill.