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More Details Released From FY 2011 Federal Budget Agreement

Early Tuesday morning, the House Appropriations Committee released further details of the agreement between lawmakers on a longer-term continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011, CQ Today reports.

A summary of the agreement from the House panel states that the package would cut about $39.9 billion in discretionary spending from current levels across a range of federal programs, which is slightly more than the $38.5 billion in reductions outlined in a Senate Appropriations Committee summary (Young, CQ Today, 4/12).

Late Friday night, before the federal government would have been forced to shut down, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that they had reached a tentative agreement on a FY 2011 CR. Lawmakers in recent weeks had been at odds over dozens of policy-based non-spending provisions -- known as riders -- in the House-passed FY 2011 CR budget bill (HR 1), including two that would cut off funding for the federal health reform law and Planned Parenthood. Under the deal, those riders have been dropped, and they will be considered separately on the Senate floor at a later time.

Details of the Agreement

Preliminary details of the agreement from the White House and Boehner's office said the package would cut about $38 billion from current spending levels across a variety of domestic discretionary programs, including $13 billion from HHS, labor and education departments. Under the agreement:

  • NIH would be spared a $500 million cut to biomedical research;
  • Plans to double the funding for research and development at the National Science Foundation and other agencies would be scaled back;
  • The federal government would have to conduct studies on the effects of the health reform law;
  • Budget cuts would be enforced for mandatory programs whose budgets are not subject to the annual appropriations review in Congress, such as $3.5 billion in unused funds for the Children's Health Insurance Program; and
  • Funding for the Internal Revenue Service to implement certain provisions of the health reform law would be blocked (California Healthline, 4/11).

The compromise plan also would affect two specific programs in the health reform law. Lawmakers agreed to:

  • Cut $2.2 billion from proposed health insurance cooperatives designed as a substitute to the public health insurance plan option; and
  • Eliminate a voucher program that would have allowed low-income workers to opt out of their employer-sponsored plans and obtain coverage through the state-based health insurance exchanges (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/11).

In addition, the FY 2011 CR would:

  • Keep all 1,100 community health centers nationwide open and maintain current funding levels for the centers;
  • Omit previously recommended cuts to state grants for maternal and child health programs;
  • Increase funding for FDA from about $2.1 billion to about $2.5 billion, which would allow the agency to implement various food, drug and medical device safety initiatives (Senate Appropriations Committee summary, 4/12); and
  • Return funding for the Title X family planning program to FY 2008 funding levels (House Appropriations Committee summary, 4/12).

Passage of CR Remains Uncertain

According to CQ Today, House leaders plan to allow members to review the budget agreement on Tuesday before they take it to the floor for a vote on Wednesday (CQ Today, 4/12). However, the deal "faces a rough ride" in the chamber, partly because some conservative lawmakers have insisted that it does not cut enough spending, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The House GOP sought nearly $61 billion in cuts in HR 1. According to the Journal, House Republicans can afford to lose 24 of their caucus members before they would need to rely on Democrats for support, most of whom are expected to reject the agreement (Bendavid/O'Connor, Wall Street Journal, 4/12).

If the measure passes the House on Wednesday, the Senate is expected to approve it as early as Thursday, which would allow lawmakers to once again avert a shutdown of the government on Friday, when a stopgap measure intended to give lawmakers time to put the compromise into legislative text is set to expire (CQ Today, 4/12).

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