House Approves Federal Budget Measure; Senate Expected To Pass Bill
On Tuesday, the House voted 271-158 to approve a new stopgap continuing resolution budget measure (H J Res 48) that would cut current discretionary spending levels by an additional $6 billion and continue to fund the federal government through April 8, the Los Angeles Times reports (Mascaro, Los Angeles Times, 3/15).
Lawmakers said the new CR -- which the Senate likely will approve before the current stopgap CR expires on Friday -- is intended to give themselves more time to negotiate a broader budget bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which runs through September (Sanchez, National Journal, 3/15).
Under the new CR, discretionary spending levels would be cut by about $2 billion weekly, in accordance with Republicans' insistence that any stopgap bills maintain course for reducing discretionary spending to 2008 levels.
Like the current two-week stopgap CR, the new package would not block implementation funds for the federal health reform law. However, it would cut billions of dollars in spending by reducing or eliminating 25 federal programs, including some secondary health care initiatives, and billions more by eliminating earmarked spending that also are outlined in President Obama's budget proposal for fiscal year 2012. The new CR would cut:
- $276 million in pandemic influenza funding; and
- $75 million from State Health Access Grants, a program that provides 13 states with funding to help them expand health coverage to uninsured individuals (California Healthline, 3/14).
House Passage Reveals GOP Divide
Although the GOP-led measure passed the House easily, 54 Republicans voted against the bill because it omitted top GOP policy priorities that were included in the House-approved GOP FY 2011 CR spending bill (HR 1), such as defunding the health reform law and blocking federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the AP/Miami Herald reports (AP/Miami Herald, 3/15). According to the Times, only six Republicans opposed the previous stopgap CR that expires Friday (Los Angeles Times, 3/15).
Cantor Pledges To Continue Defunding Efforts
On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pledged to continue to lead efforts to dismantle the health reform law by "starving" key federal agencies of the funding they need to implement it, Modern Healthcare reports.
Speaking to reporters before the House vote, Cantor said, "Our committees are going about marking up the bills which will repeal the mandatory slush funds in [the health reform law]," adding, "We knew, when the Democrats passed ObamaCare, that the agencies did not have the money necessary to promulgate the [regulations] to implement the [law]" (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 3/15).
Last week, House Republicans formally launched a series of committee hearings to develop legislation that would defund the overhaul. Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee and various witnesses discussed five sections of the law that have been marked for mandatory federal funding, and whether those sections should be considered mandatory or discretionary. The subcommittee is expected to introduce legislation to remove the funding at the end of March (California Healthline, 3/10).
Effects of Short-Term Spending Measures
The new three-week CR Congress is poised to pass could "wreak havoc" at several federal agencies, according to the findings of a 2009 Government Accountability Office study that examined the effects of such stopgap measures on six agencies, the Washington Post's "Federal Eye" reports. According to GAO, agencies such as FDA and the Veterans Health Administration would be forced to:
- Halt efforts to fill vacant positions and hire new staff;
- Stop providing full-level services to consumers;
- Delay long-term planning; and
- Sign multiple short-term deals with contractors that would require additional paperwork and cost estimates (O'Keefe, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 3/15).