Spending Bill Faces Thurs. Deadline, Could Include Health Measures
A $1 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through September 2015 includes various health care initiatives, the New York Times reports.
Congress has until Thursday to pass a continuing resolution omnibus spending bill, which many are calling a "cromnibus." However, differences on some policies, including some health-related provisions, have delayed the measure.
The measure's major health care initiatives are expected to include:
- $5.4 billion in emergency funding to help combat an Ebola outbreak in West Africa (Weisman/Parker, New York Times, 12/8); and
- Funding increases for the Department of Veterans Affairs health system (Taylor, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9).
The bill also could include funding reductions for first lady Michelle Obama's school lunch nutrition program.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said the program's standards are onerous and said easing the regulations would provide "pace and flexibility" (New York Times, 12/8).
Specifically, the bill could include language from a Senate measure (S 2389) that delays additional restrictions on sodium levels in school lunches until more research is completed on the issue. The spending measure could also give schools flexibility on requirements that they serve meals with 100% whole-grain foods (Hallerman et al., CQ Roll Call, 12/8).
According to the AP/Chronicle, cuts to the program are likely the result of funding increases for Ebola efforts (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9).
In addition, some conservative members of the House and Senate have pushed to include a "conscience clause" in the bill to protect employers who oppose contraceptives on religious grounds from having to pay for them in employee health plans (New York Times, 12/8).
According to the Times, Congress might vote on the legislation on Thursday, meaning the bill would have to pass that day to avoid a government shutdown. However, Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she would not rule out passing a 24- or 48-hour stopgap spending measure to continue funding the federal government while giving Congress more time to pass a longer-term spending bill. Overall, Mikulski said she is confident the spending measure will ultimately be approved and a shutdown will be averted, though she is "not exactly sure" of "[t]he exact time and hour" (New York Times, 12/8).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he expects the bill to pass with bipartisan support by Thursday. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to say whether she would encourage fellow House Democrats to vote for the measure until its details are unveiled (O'Keefe, Washington Post, 12/8). According to the AP/Chronicle, the measure will likely be released to the public on Tuesday (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9).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.