House OKs Bill To Avert Government Shutdown, Maintain Budget Cuts
On Wednesday, the House voted 267-151 to approve a continuing resolution extension bill (HR 933) that would limit federal non-discretionary spending to $984 billion through September and prevent a shutdown of the federal government on March 27, when the current stopgap CR expires, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/6).
About the Bill
The new six-month stopgap CR proposal also would maintain the $85 billion in spending cuts under sequestration, which took effect on March 1 and include a 2% reduction to Medicare reimbursement rates (Boles, Wall Street Journal, 3/6). However, the measure does not include controversial provisions that would reduce funding for the Affordable Care Act or repeal the ACA's contraceptive coverage requirement, the Washington Times reports (Dinan, Washington Times, 3/6).
House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) -- the bill's main sponsor -- said the new stopgap spending measure is necessary to keep the federal government funded and in operation while House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House continue negotiations for a deal to replace the sequester's cuts ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/6).
However, some House Democrats argued that the measure's reaffirmation of sequestration could have repercussions. House Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said the measure threatens the viability of numerous federal programs, including life-saving medical research (Holden, CQ Roll Call, 3/6). Lowey also noted that the bill omits new funding appropriations for certain program, including a $75 million funding request for the federal Women, Infants, and Children emergency feeding program (Young, CQ Roll Call, 3/6).
Lowey in a statement noted that the bill will delay implementation of the ACA's health insurance exchanges, which are scheduled to begin enrolling residents, because of certain omissions. "Without IT infrastructure to process enrollments and payments, verify eligibility and establish call centers, health insurance for millions of Americans could be further delayed," she said (Carey, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 3/7).
Democrats noted that the bill failed to include an increase of $567 million for a federal program targeting fraud and abuse in health care, and for reviewing disability benefits (Ethridge, CQ Roll Call, 3/6).
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Senate is expected to take up the legislation next week (Wall Street Journal, 3/6).
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the panel's ranking member, are holding talks on changes that Democrats want to make to the bill ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/6). However, senior Democratic aides said the Senate is unlikely to make any major changes that could delay final approval of the bill, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 3/6).
Sen. Cruz To Introduce Amendment That Would Delay Funding for ACA
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced that he plans to introduce an amendment to the new stopgap spending bill that would delay funding of the ACA, Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports ("Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 3/7).
Cruz said, "The very first priority of every elected official -- Democrat and Republican -- should be restoring economic growth," adding, "Obamacare does precisely the opposite" (Gibson, "On Congress," Politico, 3/6).
Obama Seeks To Secure GOP Cooperation on Budget Deal
In related news, President Obama on Wednesday hosted nearly a dozen GOP senators for dinner at a Washington, D.C., restaurant in what observers described as "a rare display of after-hours schmoozing" by the president to secure a deal on a comprehensive deficit-reduction package, the Los Angeles Times reports.
One senior White House officials said the administration is trying to "find like-minded people to build momentum for a compromise" (Hennessey/Mascaro, Los Angeles Times, 3/6).
Although some Republicans have expressed doubt that Obama would be able to reach a comprehensive bipartisan deal, Hoeven said the meeting provided an opportunity to strike a grand-bargain deal in the future (Nicholas/Peterson, Wall Street Journal, 3/6).
Rep. Ryan Discusses Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Proposal
Meanwhile in the House, Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal -- which he plans to release Tuesday -- will not contain any "big surprises" from last year's budget plan, The Hill's "On The Money" reports.
Ryan, during a press briefing, said the biggest change would be accelerating the timeline for producing a proposal to balance the budget within 10 years. Ryan's FY 2013 proposal included $5 trillion in spending reductions and a goal to balance the budget by 2040, "On the Money" reports (Wasson, "On The Money," The Hill, 3/6).
Ryan said his new budget blueprint would include spending cuts to food stamps and social services, a proposal to convert Medicare into a premium-support program where beneficiaries would receive a federal subsidy to purchase either a private health care plan or a traditional Medicare plan, and a plan to turn Medicaid into a block-grant system (Weisman, New York Times, 3/6).
Several Republican sources this week said the proposal will not alter Medicare benefits for individuals age 55 and older, despite previous reports that the plan might include changes to coverage for people who currently are as old as 59 (California Healthline, 3/6). On Wednesday, two members of the House Budget Committee confirmed that such a proposal remains up in the air (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/6).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.