Washington eBulletin – September 2019

A Look Ahead

Congress Must Pass Agency Funding Bill or Risk Government Shutdown

Members of Congress return to Washington next week with a full agenda, including completing the 12 appropriations bills before the start of the new fiscal year. If the bills aren’t finished before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, the federal government will once again shut down.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2020 legislative branch appropriations bill in May. The bill provides the Government Publishing Office (GPO) with the requested $117 million, which will support the Federal Depository Library Program and the continued development of govinfo. The Library of Congress received $720 million, an increase of $24 million, including the Copyright Office, Congressional Research Service, Law Library of Congress, and National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. In its Committee report, the House Appropriations Committee urged the Law Library “to continue its digitization strategy as party of the Library’s overall digitization strategy to increase online access to major parts of its collection, such as the U.S. Serial Sets [sic] and Supreme Court Records and Briefs.”

The Law Library of Congress’ projects to digitize public domain U.S. legal and legislative materials would be of significant benefit to law libraries, which will be able to provide free access to these collections through the Law Library’s website once digitization is complete. In addition, GPO is contributing to building a corpus of digitized historical material, most recently completing the digitization of the Federal Register back to 1936 and the bound Congressional Record back to 1873.

Despite the White House’s repeated calls to shutter the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the House has approved significant increases in funding for these agencies. In June, the House approved $267 million for IMLS in a four-bill appropriations package (H.R.2740), an increase of $25 million above the 2019 enacted level. The House also passed $550 million for the LSC in a separate appropriations package (H.R. 3055), an increase of $135 million above fiscal year 2019, to help increase the availability of legal assistance in underserved communities.

The Senate has not yet scheduled any appropriations bill markups. Before the recess, the Senate cleared legislation to set topline spending levels for the next two fiscal years and suspend the debt limit through July 2021. That means the House and Senate may have to reconcile funding levels and must act quickly to complete the appropriations bills before funding runs out on September 30.

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