More Details Emerging From Federal Budget Agreement for FY 2011
As congressional lawmakers reviewed the new agreement over a longer-term fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution, more details and a clearer picture of spending cuts in the deal emerged, the Washington Post reports.
The legislative text (HR 1473) of the agreement was released on Tuesday (Rucker, Washington Post, 4/12).
Background on Agreement
Late Friday night, before the federal government would have been forced to shut down, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that they had reached a tentative agreement with the White House on a FY 2011 CR. Lawmakers for weeks had been at odds over dozens of policy-based non-spending provisions -- known as riders -- in the House-passed FY 2011 CR budget bill (HR 1), including two that would cut off funding for the federal health reform law and Planned Parenthood. Under the deal, those riders have been dropped, and they will be considered separately on the Senate floor at a later time.
Summaries of the deal released on Tuesday by House and Senate appropriators said the package would cut between $38.5 billion and $39.9 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending, and affect a range of federal programs, including health care and provisions in the health reform law.
Among the spending reductions in the deal are proposals that would affect two specific programs in the overhaul -- the proposed health insurance cooperatives designed as an alternative to the public health insurance plan option and a voucher program to allow low-income workers to opt out of their employer-sponsored plans and obtain coverage through the new state-based health insurance exchanges.
Congressional leaders planned to allow members to review the budget compromise bill on Tuesday before releasing it for final floor votes in the House and Senate on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively (California Healthline, 4/12).
However, The Hill reports that the floor votes in both chambers will be conducted on Thursday to comply with a GOP rule that requires new legislation to be available for review for three calendar days before floor consideration (Wasson, The Hill, 4/12). Lawmakers must approve the measure by Friday, when a stopgap measure intended to give lawmakers time to put the compromise into legislative text expires (California Healthline, 4/12).
Dissecting the Details
According to the Post, about $20 billion of the overall spending reductions in the budget compromise bill would come from domestic discretionary programs, while $17.8 billion would be cut from mandatory programs (Washington Post, 4/12).
Those cuts include the nearly $12 billion in reductions that Congress approved in the three most recent stopgap CR bills (The Hill, 4/12).
More than half of the nearly $39 million in total spending cuts would affect health, labor and education programs (Washington Post, 4/12).
Meanwhile, the spending reductions in HR 1473 include proposals that would:
- Strip away $1.2 billion for the Health Resources and Services Administration, making it the single largest health care-related spending cut in the deal, according to CQ Today. However, some programs within HRSA are expected to receive new funding through the health reform law;
- Reduce funding for HHS in FY 2011 to $70.6 billion, which is lower than the $74 billion the agency received in FY 2010, but higher than the $65.4 billion allocated in HR 1 (Norman, CQ Today, 4/12);
- Cut off $500 million in funding for the federal Women, Infants and Children health and nutrition program (Mascaro, Los Angeles Times, 4/12);
- Cut $730 million from CDC's total budget. However, observers noted that the agency has the ability to reduce funding to programs it considers low priority, which could help offset the effect; and
- Cut 4% from the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (CQ Today, 4/12).
Some lawmakers, advocates and policy analysts consider some of the cuts in HR 1473 less significant than they appear on paper, noting that they might not necessarily result in service cutbacks or job losses.
In several cases, large reductions actually are "accounting gimmicks," the Post reports. For example, the bill eliminates funding for four policy "czars" in the Obama administration -- who would have had specific authority over certain areas of policy, including health care -- but those positions already are vacant, and GOP efforts to defund other "czar" positions were rejected by Democrats, the Post reports (Washington Post, 4/12).
Uncertainty About Bill's Passage Rises With New Concerns
As congressional leaders on Tuesday attempted to secure enough votes for the new budget compromise bill to pass on the chambers' floors on Thursday, some Democrats and Republicans expressed mixed opinions and skepticism regarding the deal, the New York Times reports.
On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chair of the chamber's Republican Study Committee, said he would vote against the measure because it does not cut enough federal spending (Steinhauer, New York Times, 4/12).
In the Senate, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) -- the author of the co-ops program in the health reform law that would be eliminated as part of the budget deal -- expressed frustration about the move, which he called "raw special interest power." Wyden said he would wait for White House officials and Democratic leaders to explain why they agreed to the cut before making a decision about how to vote on the budget bill (Bolton, The Hill, 4/12).
In addition, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he is considering a filibuster against the budget agreement because it lacks a balanced budget amendment, The Hill's "Blog Briefing Room" reports. Paul acknowledged that he is unlikely to secure enough votes to launch a successful filibuster (O'Brien/Fabian, "Blog Briefing Room," The Hill, 4/12).
Although there are some concerns about the bill in the Senate, the measure still is expected to pass in the chamber, CQ Today reports. Meanwhile, GOP leaders in the House have expressed confidence that the final bill will pass easily in the lower chamber. According to CQ Today, a preliminary procedural vote on the package scheduled for Wednesday could give GOP leaders an idea of where lawmakers from both parties stand on the bill (Goldfarb, CQ Today, 4/12).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.