Congress Extends DHS Funding for One Week

Late in the evening on February 27, Congress agreed to a one-week extension of funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prevent a partial shutdown of the agency. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has asked Congress to provide full-year FY 2015 funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers important fire service grant programs and the U.S. Fire Administration, and to pass at least a temporary extension of DHS funding to prevent a shutdown from occurring.
Several weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed legislation, H.R. 240, which would have provided full-year funding for DHS and FEMA. That bill was blocked from being considered in the Senate, however, until last week when controversial language defunding President Obama’s Executive Order on immigration was removed from the bill, after which the Senate voted to pass it. Rather than agreeing to the Senate changes, the House tried unsuccessfully to pass a three-week DHS appropriations extension. When that failed, the Senate took up and passed legislation extending DHS appropriations by one week, which the House also passed and the President signed into law.
The one-week extension bill was an amended version of H.R. 33, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, which passed the House in early January and would clarify in statute that volunteer emergency responders are not employees under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Volunteers are currently not treated as employees under the law based on a regulatory ruling issued by the Department of Treasury last year. H.R. 33 was an attempt to codify the regulatory ruling.
Unfortunately, before passing H.R. 33, the Senate stripped out the language pertaining to volunteers and inserted the DHS appropriations extension through an amendment. Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA) plans to reintroduce the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, which has now passed the House of Representatives twice in the past year by unanimous votes.