Boehner, House GOP Defer to Senate on Plan To Avoid Sequester
On Wednesday, House Republican leaders said they will look to the Senate for legislation to prevent $85 billion in mandated spending cuts under sequestration, Reuters reports (Ferraro et al., Reuters, 2/13).
The mandated spending cuts under sequestration involve nearly $1 trillion in across-the-board reductions, including a 2% reduction to Medicare reimbursement rates. In January, President Obama signed legislation -- negotiated by Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- that delayed the cuts by two months, to March 1 (California Healthline, 2/12).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other House Republicans contend that deficit reduction should be limited to spending cuts without raising taxes, while Democrats insist on a plan that includes both. Although Boehner has criticized the across-the-board cuts as taking a "meat axe approach to government spending," he has refrained from reintroducing legislation this year to replace the cuts (Reuters, 2/13).
Instead, Boehner on Wednesday insisted that Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate come up with an alternative (Taylor, AP/Miami Herald, 2/13). Boehner said, "We've played our cards, we've laid out our hand, passed those bills. [They] went to the Senate [in the last Congress] and nothing happened," adding, "It's time for the Senate to do its job" (Wasson/Hooper, The Hill, 2/13).
Some Democrats Disagree on Reid's Sequester Plan
Meanwhile, some Democrats are pushing back against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) plans to introduce a sequester package with an even balance of tax increases and spending cuts. Reid aims to increase pressure on the House by passing the sequester measure, The Hill notes.
Opponents of Reid's plan argue that the split between tax increases and spending cuts should be 80-20, rather than 50-50. They argue that an even split would shift more heavily toward spending cuts when the bill is negotiated. However, Reid seems unlikely to alter his proposal, The Hill reports (Bolton, The Hill, 2/14).
Sequester Legislation Could Shift to Late March
Key lawmakers on both sides of the sequester debate say that the best chance for a bipartisan deal could be pushed to March 27, the expiration date of the continuing resolution carrying government funding through the end of the fiscal year, Roll Call reports.
Lawmakers say that the deadline is flexible because agencies can adjust their operations to deal with the cuts under sequestration -- which would take effect on March 1 -- over the short term. They also note that Congress could act retroactively to reverse or reduce the cuts (Ota, Roll Call, 2/13).
CDC Director Predicts Local Public Health Cuts Under Sequester
In related news, CDC Director Thomas Frieden on Wednesday said the agency would have "no alternative" but to decrease funding for state and local public health agencies if the sequestration begins, CQ HealthBeat reports. If allowed to take effect, CDC would face more than $350 million in funding cuts.
At a hearing for the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Frieden said that CDC would attempt to "limit the harm we have to do," in part by "focusing on efficiencies" and reducing administrative costs.
However, given that more than two-thirds of CDC's funding goes to state and local health agencies, "there would be no alternative but to reduce funding there," he said (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 2/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.