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Learn about policy issues important to medical schools and teaching hospitals, with Executive Vice President Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D.

Washington Highlights

House, Senate Announce Deal to Punt Spending Bills to March

August 3, 2012—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) each issued July 31 statements announcing a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to craft a six-month continuing resolution (CR) that Congress reportedly will approve in September to avert an Oct. 1 government shutdown. If enacted, the measure would set the stage for an FY 2013 spending showdown in March 2013, under a new Congress and three months after $109 billion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts are scheduled to take effect due to sequestration.

According to both statements, the CR will abide by the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending cap established in the Budget Control Act (BCA, P.L. 112-25) [see Washington Highlights, Aug. 5. 2011], though staff will draft details of the measure while members are in their home states over the August recess.

The CR will allow lawmakers additional time to negotiate final FY 2013 funding levels for the 12 annual spending bills without the threat of a government shutdown when the current funding levels expire Sept. 30, just before the November elections. The six-month extension also opens space on the legislative calendar for a lengthy list of year-end measures Congress will need to consider during the lame duck session, such as extension of the physician payment “patch.”

But a new Congress will need to revisit the FY 2013 appropriations bills again in March 2013 to keep the government operating through the end of the fiscal year, and overall funding available for discretionary spending is likely to reemerge as a central source of debate.

While Democratically led Senate appropriators have drafted their FY 2013 spending bills using the BCA cap, the House has been working with the $1.028 trillion cap in the budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 112) approved by the GOP majority in March [see Washington Highlights, April 27]. The lower House cap has led to steep cuts for domestic discretionary programs in the House appropriations bills, including programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

For example, the FY 2013 spending bill approved July 18 by the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee blocks funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152), eliminates three of the Title VII health professions programs, and terminates the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) [see Washington Highlights, July 20]. The measure has prompted objections from several health groups, such as a July 30 letter―signed by AAMC and 138 other organizations and institutions―opposing the proposal to eliminate AHRQ.

Though the full House Appropriations Committee was expected to consider the HHS spending bill the following week, appropriators have not announced a date for the markup and committee Democrats have indicated that it has been “postponed indefinitely.” In the absence of an official committee report on the measure, full committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) July 30 issued a series of reports detailing some of the cuts in the mark, including those to the Title VII programs.

If both chambers approve the six-month continuing resolution in September, final FY 2013 funding levels for HHS programs could hinge on how House and Senate leaders reconcile the $19 billion gap between each chamber’s overall spending cap.

Their ability to broker a deal six months into the fiscal year also will be complicated by the $109 billion in discretionary spending cuts required under the BCA on Jan. 2, 2013 [see Washington Highlights, July 27]. Unless Congress acts to prevent the sequester before then, NIH and other appropriated federal agencies will be forced to implement immediate cuts of at least 8 percent, CR notwithstanding (see related story).

Contact:

Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559
Email: dbmoore@aamc.org

Tannaz Rasouli
Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
Telephone: 202-828-0525
Email: trasouli@aamc.org

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806
Email: jkleinman@aamc.org