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  • Washington Highlights

    Congress Clears 7-Day Stopgap to Finalize FY 2017 Spending Bills

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The House, 382-30, and Senate by unanimous consent voted April 28 to approve a short term continuing resolution (CR, H.J. Res. 99) that would give lawmakers until May 5 to complete negotiations on the remaining 11 fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending bills and avert a government shutdown.

    The vote occurred one day after Senate Democrats blocked an effort to expedite consideration of the CR over concerns that a pending omnibus spending bill to resolve FY 2017 will include “poison pill riders.” House and Senate Democratic leaders had indicated previously that they only would support a short-term CR if an agreement to fund the remainder of FY 2017 was at hand.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated April 28 that he is “confident” that a group of bipartisan, bicameral negotiators are making progress in addressing remaining disagreements, allowing the stopgap to move forward.

    Its fate was unclear earlier in the week, as Democrats pledged to vote against any omnibus spending packages that would include funding for the president’s proposed border security wall and would exclude funding for cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. The CSRs provide subsidies to insurance plans offering coverage to low-income enrollees under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152).

    Tensions eased as the week went on, as the White House signaled that the president would be willing to sign an FY 2017 spending package that excludes the wall funding, and reports suggested that congressional leaders were negotiating other forms of enhanced border security funding.

    The White House also informed Democrats that the administration will continue to pay the CSR subsidies without the appropriation. The announcement reversed earlier comments from the president that the administration would withhold the CSR payments to force Democrats to negotiate on ACA repeal. House Republicans also backed off earlier plans to schedule an April 28 vote on the latest iteration of the repeal bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA, H.R. 1628) (see related story), which also threatened to derail the CR vote.

    With the president’s expected signature, the CR will give Congress seven extra days to finalize the full FY 2017 spending package. The previous stopgap was scheduled to expire April 28, after House and Senate leaders opted in December 2016 to defer final spending decisions until the new administration took office. As a result, most of the government, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), temporarily have been operating at a rate of operations that is 0.1901 percent below FY 2016 levels.