Government Shutdown Looms as Federal Budget Impasse Drags On
A third straight day of negotiations between President Obama and top congressional leaders ended without a resolution on a new continuing resolution package, which would fund the federal government through September, Reuters reports (Cowan, Reuters, 4/8).
Congress has to pass a new budget measure by midnight on Friday -- when the current stopgap CR expires -- to avert a shutdown of the federal government. Lawmakers are at odds over dozens of policy-based non-spending provisions -- known as riders -- including two in the House-passed FY 2011 CR budget bill (HR 1), which would cut off funding for the federal health reform law and Planned Parenthood (California Healthline, 4/7).
Following the second of two meetings with Obama on Thursday night, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) issued a joint statement, in which they said that they had resolved some of their differences and they would "continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve" the remaining ones (Espo, AP/Boston Globe, 4/7).
Meanwhile, at a White House press briefing after the meeting, Obama noted that although the differences between the two sides have been "narrowed," he was "not yet prepared to express wild optimism" about an agreement (Rucker et al., Washington Post, 4/7).
Obama said he told Reid and Boehner that preparations for an orderly government shutdown have begun, but he still wanted an update on the negotiations on Friday morning. "My hope is that I'll be able to announce to the American people sometime early in the day that a shutdown has been averted," he said (Shear, New York Times, 4/7).
Prospects for Budget Agreement Hinge on GOP Policy Priorities
Although negotiations on a longer-term spending bill for FY 2011 have centered on the cost and size of spending cuts in the final measure, also at issue are the GOP-favored riders in HR 1 that Republican lawmakers want to add to the measure. Among the health care-related riders in HR 1 -- which the House approved, but the Senate rejected, in February -- are provisions that would affect the health reform law by:
- Blocking funding provided for the Executive Office of the President to be used for the director of the Office of Health Care Reform, or any substantially similar position;
- Cutting off funds to any federal workers, officers, contractor or grantee for the purpose of implementing the overhaul's provisions;
- Prohibiting funds for the Internal Revenue Service to implement the health reform law's individual mandate, or to enforce its reporting requirements and penalties; and
- Halting funds for implementing any of the overhaul's various consumer protection provisions for insurance coverage, medical loss ratio requirements and other measures (Eisenhower/Stapleton, Kaiser Health News, 4/7).
Although these "hot-button" provisions are just as important to many House Republicans as the spending cuts they seek, they also are nonstarters to many Senate Democrats (Mascaro/Parsons, Los Angeles Times, 4/8).
House Approves New One-Week Stopgap CR
The House on Thursday voted 247-181 mostly along party lines to approve the GOP's new one-week stopgap CR bill (HR 1363) that would fund the federal government through April 15. Six Republicans opposed the measure and 15 Democrats voted in support of it (Symes, CQ Today, 4/7).
According to The Hill's "Floor Action Blog," the Senate is not expected to consider the measure, and the White House announced that it would veto the bill (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 4/7).
In a Statement of Administration Policy released before the vote, the White House said, "This bill is a distraction from the real work that would bring us closer to a reasonable compromise for funding the remainder of fiscal year 2011 and avert a disruptive federal government shutdown that would put the nation's economic recovery in jeopardy" (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 4/7).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.