Senate Approves Budget Resolution With SCHIP Funds
The Senate on Friday voted 52-47 to approve a $2.9 trillion fiscal year 2008 budget resolution that includes funds for an expansion of SCHIP, as well as billions of dollars in additional funds for health care for veterans and other domestic programs, the New York Times reports (Andrews, New York Times, 3/24).
The budget resolution, which includes about $18 billion more for domestic discretionary spending in FY 2008 than President Bush has requested, would provide $15 billion over five years for an expansion of SCHIP. The budget resolution also includes $3.5 billion more than President Bush has requested for health care for veterans.
In addition, the budget resolution includes 25 "reserve funds" to provide additional spending for health care and other domestic programs, provided that the costs are offset by spending reductions in other areas or new revenue. The budget resolution also would allow for a mental health parity bill under consideration in the Senate and allocate $5 billion in the Department of Defense budget to ensure injured soldiers receive adequate health care and provide adequate equipment for those who enter combat areas (California Healthline, 3/23).
Prior to passage, the Senate voted 59-40 to approve an amendment sponsored by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) that could provide additional funds for an expansion of SCHIP through an increase in the federal cigarette tax of as much as 61 cents per pack. The amendment is not binding and allows the Senate Finance Committee to consider other proposals to provide additional funds for an expansion of SCHIP (Dennis, CQ Today, 3/26). Smith said that the amendment could raise as much as $35 million for the program (Lengell, Washington Times, 3/24).
The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that would have prevented a reduction in Medicare Advantage reimbursements to fund an expansion of SCHIP or other "improvements" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 3/23).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, "The priorities of the middle class and working families were at the top of the list when Democrats drafted this budget" (Washington Times, 3/24).
However, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said that the budget resolution, which does not include proposals from Bush to reduce the rate of Medicare and Medicaid spending growth, "squanders the opportunity to address the fiscal tsunami" that will result as the population ages (Montgomery, Washington Post, 3/24).
In other budget news, the House on Friday voted 218-212 to approve a $124 billion supplemental appropriations bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that would provide additional funds for health care programs for veterans, the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 3/24).
The legislation includes $3.5 billion more than Bush requested for DOD and Department of Veterans Affairs health care programs, as well as $1 billion for avian flu preparedness. The bill also would provide $750 million for SCHIP. The legislation exceeded the amount that Bush requested by about $21 billion, with almost half of the additional funds allocated for nonmilitary programs (California Healthline, 3/23).
"Within minutes of passage, Bush denounced the bill" because of provisions that would establish a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the Post reports. "The Democrats have sent their message," Bush said, adding, "Now it's time to send their money." The Senate this week will consider a similar bill (Weisman, Washington Post, 3/24).