House GOP Stopgap Measure Includes Some Health Care Cuts
On Friday, House Republicans unveiled a second stopgap continuing resolution spending bill (H J Res 48) that would cut current discretionary spending levels by an additional $6 billion and continue to fund the federal government for three weeks after the current CR (H J Res 44) expires, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Congress earlier this month passed the first CR -- a two-week stopgap bill -- to provide more time to develop a longer-term measure to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2011, which ends on Sept. 30.
Last week, Senate leaders reached an agreement to conduct test votes on two such measures: the House-approved GOP FY 2011 CR spending bill (HR 1) and a modified Democratic version. Both measures were rejected.
Details of Second CR
Preliminary details released last week about the new three-week stopgap CR stated that it would cut discretionary spending levels by about $2 billion weekly, in accordance with Republicans' insistence that any stopgap bills maintain course for reducing discretionary spending to 2008 levels (Mascaro, Los Angeles Times, 3/11). Like the first stopgap CR, the new package "barely touches" the implementation budget for the federal health reform law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
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 in earmarked spending, which also was outlined in President Obama's budget proposal for FY 2012. According to "Healthwatch," 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 (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/11).
According to the New York Times, if the new stopgap measure is approved, Congress would have eliminated a total of $10 billion from agency budgets in the back-to-back stop gap measures.
Democrats in both chambers indicated that the new three-week CR was acceptable, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) noting that the cuts are "free of any ideological, special-interest legislation."
Although a timeline for votes on the new stopgap CR package was not immediately offered, lawmakers would need to approve the package before Friday to avoid a government shutdown (Hulse, New York Times, 3/11).
Some GOP Lawmakers Oppose New CR Proposal
A group of House Republicans in the tea party caucus last week warned that they would not support the newly proposed three-week stopgap spending bill unless it includes provisions to block funding for the implementation of the health reform law, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said they plan to deliver a letter -- which would outline their concerns and include the signatures of other lawmakers -- to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week.
The letter states, in part, "If we do not stand our ground on the [House-approved] CR, leverage it as the 'must pass' bill that it is, and use it to stop the $105.5 billion in automatically appropriated funds, ObamaCare will be implemented on our watch." The letter added that if Republicans give up on the issue, they would find it difficult to regain their leverage on it later (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 3/11).
Several other House Republicans also "balked" at the new CR proposal, saying that it falls short of the full $61 billion in cuts outlined in the House-approved FY 2011 CR, according to The Hill's "On the Money."
Some also indicated that they would vote against the measure because it does adequately specify banning funding for Planned Parenthood (Bolton, "On the Money," The Hill, 3/13).
Entitlement Reform Could Impede Long-Term Spending Resolution
A proposal offered in the Senate last week to include entitlement reform in the FY 2011 spending bill could halt the ongoing debate on the measure and compromise the bill's chance of passage, some House Democrats have warned, The Hill reports.
On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed a "reset" on the debate by including certain entitlement changes and revenue hikes (Lillis, The Hill, 3/12).
Two other senators -- Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), who are part of the "Gang of Six" bipartisan senators working on a compromise spending bill -- also echoed Schumer's proposal during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" (Klatell, The Hill, 3/13).
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, said that including entitlement reforms "is just going to complicate things and make it harder to get anything done."
Meanwhile, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), senior member on the House Ways and Means Committee, added that it would exacerbate the disagreements between Democrats and Republicans on the issue (Lillis, The Hill, 3/12).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.