Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee came together this week to pass a budget plan that would keep federal OSHA funding at the same level in fiscal year (FY) 2018 as is today.
The bill, which addresses spending by Labor, HHS, Education and related agencies, calls for the Labor Department to be funded by $12 billion overall—that’s a slight cut of $61.5 million or about 0.5% from the funding level in FY 2017—according to a summary released by the committee’s Republican members. It passed by a vote of 29-2.
“For the second year in a row, the committee has worked together in a tough fiscal environment to pass a bipartisan bill that reflects Americans’ priorities ,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairperson for the subcommittee on Labor and HHS appropriations, in a statement.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and related agencies, said in a separate statement that she’s pleased to see bipartisanship at work, though there’s more to be done.
“While I support this bill as a compromise and the best we can do given the inadequate investment levels we’ve been given , it underscores the need for us to keep working toward another budget deal to increase investments in people, communities, and economic growth,” Murray said. “But this bill is a good first step and a strong foundation for continued bipartisan work.”
Labor agencies would fare far better under this Senate appropriations bill than the version under consideration by the House, which proposed even deeper cuts for OSHA’s enforcement budget  than President Trump had requested, as Bloomberg BNA’s Bruce Rolfsen reported in July.
Jordan Barab, a former OSHA official and an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, said a flat budget (i.e., no increase in funding) could be the best-case scenario “considering who controls the White House and Congress.”
“Although we’ll end up with strikingly different bills in the Senate and the House, the expectation is that, because the Senate bill is a bi-partisan measure that both parties have agreed on, the current funding is likely to be maintained if there is a final bill ,” Barab wrote on his blog, Confined Space. If, he added, Congress were to resort to a continuing resolution rather than passing a final bill, that too would keep funding at about the same levels as they stand today.