Democrats Show Signs of Compromise on Federal Government Funding Bill
On Tuesday, Democratic leaders signaled that they might consider a number of policy-based non-spending provisions known as "policy riders" to overcome an ongoing impasse on a federal government spending measure, CQ Today reports.
The policy riders were included in the House-passed continuing resolution spending bill (HR 1) for fiscal year 2011.
Lawmakers in recent weeks have been unable to reach a compromise on the amount of spending cuts to health care and other programs in the budget package, which would keep the federal government funded through September.
Congress has less than two weeks to approve a budget measure before the current stopgap CR measure expires on April 8 and the government faces a shutdown (Young, CQ Today, 3/29). Like the previous stopgap CR, the current stopgap CR does not block funds for the implementation of the federal health reform law. Some Republicans have vowed that the next CR will include provisions to block funding for the reform law and Planned Parenthood. Such provisions already are included in HR 1 (California Healthline, 3/28).
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not identify the riders in HR 1 to which Democrats might agree for the final FY 2011 CR (CQ Today, 3/29). However, Democrats likely would reject the dozens of policy riders in the House CR bill that intend to defund the overhaul and Planned Parenthood (Dinan/Lengell, Washington Times, 3/29).
Reid has warned Republicans to refrain from including any provisions that would defund Planned Parenthood, and White House officials have said that President Obama will veto any budget measure that has provisions to block funding for the overhaul (California Healthline, 3/18). Reid said, "There aren't many [policy riders in HR 1] that excite me," adding, "But we're willing to look at them" (Washington Times, 3/29).
According to the New York Times, many Republicans have said they will not accept a budget deal that does not include riders to defund the overhaul and Planned Parenthood (Steinhauer, New York Times, 3/29).
However, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) -- a prominent GOP proponent for defunding the health reform law -- noted that the policy riders are less important in the debate on the next CR than the final amount of money that would be withheld for the implementation of the law. King said Republican leaders should focus negotiations on the law and force Democrats to weigh a potential government shutdown over the issue (Washington Times, 3/29).
Sebelius Likely To Face Questions About Reform
In related news, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday likely will defend Obama's FY 2012 budget proposal and face questions about funding requests for various health agencies during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, National Journal reports.
Under Obama's budget proposal, HHS' budget has been marked at $79.9 billion, which includes funding for the implementation of the health reform law and $32 billion for NIH, an increase of $740 million from 2010.
Although Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has promised to protect the funding request for implementing the law, the panel's Republican members are expected to use the hearing to question Sebelius about certain issues they have with the law, such as the recent increase in the number of waivers that the administration has granted from certain provisions in the overhaul (DoBias, National Journal, 3/29).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.