House Approves FY 2008 Budget Resolution With Increased Medicare, SCHIP Funds
The House on Thursday voted 216-210 to approve a fiscal year 2008 budget resolution that would require Congress to offset increased funds for Medicare, SCHIP and other health care programs with tax increases or spending reductions, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Taylor, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/29).
The $2.9 trillion budget resolution, drafted by House Budget Committee Chair John Spratt (D-S.C.), exceeds the amount President Bush requested for discretionary spending by more than $24 billion and exceeds the amount of the Senate FY 2008 budget resolution by about $7 billion. The House budget resolution does not include a proposal from Bush to reduce funds for Medicare and Medicaid.
The budget resolution would provide funds to implement the recommendations of a presidential commission that has begun to investigate the quality of care provided to injured U.S. troops and veterans. In addition, the budget resolution includes language "repudiating" a proposal from Bush for new TRICARE enrollment fees for veterans. The budget resolution also would provide additional funds for mental health care for veterans and research on traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.
According to Spratt, the budget resolution would provide as much as $50 billion in additional funds for SCHIP over five years, provided that the spending is offset (California Healthline, 3/28). According to the AP/Chronicle, the offset requirement "would greatly complicate efforts later this year to boost funding" for SCHIP (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/29).
All Republicans and 12 Democrats voted against the budget resolution. Prior to passage of the budget resolution, the House voted 268-160 to reject an alternative resolution proposed by Republicans that would have reduced funds for Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs by $279 billion over five years. The House also rejected alternative budget resolutions proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus and liberal Democrats.
Democrats hope to complete negotiations with the Senate on a final budget resolution by May 1, CQ Today reports (Dennis, CQ Today, 3/29). Spratt said that House budget resolution "shows that Democrats are fiscally responsible and can budget, and that we are charting a new course for America" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/29).
However, the White House and Republicans "complained that the Democratic budget made no adjustments to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid," CongressDaily reports. House Budget Committee ranking member Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said, "If we do nothing to control spending, by the time my children are my age, the federal (budget) will be doubled in size" (Bourge, CongressDaily, 3/29).
In other budget news, the Senate on Thursday voted 51-47 to approve a $123.2 billion supplemental appropriations bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that includes funds for a number of health care programs, CongressDaily reports (Cohn, CongressDaily, 3/29).
The legislation, which includes billions of dollars in domestic spending not included in the $103 billion request from Bush, would provide $1.3 billion for health care for the military and $1.8 billion for health care for veterans. In addition, the bill would prohibit the use of funds to close Walter Reed Army Medical Center unless certain conditions are met.
The bill would impose a two-year moratorium on a proposed rule to limit reimbursements to Medicaid providers and would increase the rebates that brand-name pharmaceutical companies must pay for medications covered under Medicaid from 15% to 20%. The increased rebates would raise about $1.35 billion over five years.
The bill also would seek to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008 (American Health Line, 3/23).
All Democrats and Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with the Democrats, voted against the legislation (CongressDaily, 3/29).
Democrats on Thursday "appeared confident" that they could complete negotiations with the House on a final bill by April 25 or 26, CQ Today reports.
Bush on Thursday said he would veto a final bill that includes language on the withdrawal of troops from Iraq (Higa/Starks, CQ Today, 3/29). Bush said that he also opposes additional funds for nonmilitary programs included in the legislation (Cohn, CongressDaily, 3/29).