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Budget Impasse Shuts Down Government

October 4, 2013—The budget deadlock that has shut down the federal government for the first time in 17 years continues amid signs that it may become entangled in the looming fight over the debt limit. Meanwhile, Democrats rejected targeted House Republican spending bills to reopen specific federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In an Oct. 1 statement, AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., said, “The AAMC is profoundly disappointed that Congress was unable to come to an agreement to avert a government shutdown.” He urged Congress and the administration “to work together to develop a plan to keep the federal government running…. [And] to consider the dramatic impact that funding cuts to medical research and doctor training will have on the health of the country and the millions of patients who depend on the lifesaving research conducted at, and critical health care services provided by, the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals.”

The House Oct. 2 approved five narrow Republican bills to restore funding for specific government agencies, including the Research for Life Savings Cures Act (H.J.Res. 73), which would provide NIH funding at pre-shutdown levels through Dec. 15 or until an appropriations law is enacted.  The House approved the measure, 254-171, with 25 Democrats voting for the bill.

Democrats rejected the piecemeal approach to ending the shutdown as politics. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, said, “[I]nstead of wasting time trying to play politics, instead of cherry-picking important programs like the NIH to fund, we should be working on a budget for the entire government, one that does right by all of our fundamental priorities — creates jobs, supports the middle class and working families, and ensures long-term growth.”

In an Oct. 3 letter  to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D., expressed concern that while the bill would fund NIH, “other federal sciences agencies that play a critical role in medical innovation, such as the National Science Foundation, would remain shuttered.”

He also noted the proposal “neglects to fund other important parts of the Public Health Service, such as the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program or the Title VII and VIII health education and nursing programs, which are key parts of the continuum of federal programs that improve the health and quality of life for all Americans.”

At press time, the Senate was expected to defeat the House bills.  The White House Oct. 2 issued a veto threat stating, “Consideration of appropriations bills in a piecemeal fashion is not a serious or responsible way to run the United States Government.”

President Obama met Oct. 3 at the White House with congressional leaders but no progress on resolving the impasse emerged. If Democrats continue to insist on a “clean” continuing resolution ― i.e., without provisions affecting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ― and Republicans continue their efforts to defund or delay the ACA, it increases the likelihood that the ongoing struggle over FY 2014 spending will become wrapped up in the negotiations over the federal debt limit, which is set to be hit in mid-October.


Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Senior Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806