On October 16, Congress reached a last minute agreement to end the 16-day government shutdown and avoid defaulting on our debts. The measure, which passed by comfortable margins in both chambers, and was signed shortly afterwards by President Obama, has five key provisions:
- reopening of the federal government through January 15 at sequestration levels (the approximately 5% automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for discretionary programs);
- an extension of the debt limit until February 7 and a provision that requires a vote to disapprove extending the debt limit, as opposed to having votes to raise it;
- establishment of a House-Senate conference committee to agree on a budget plan by December 13;
- a requirement for income verification for recipients of subsidies under the Affordable Care Act’s newly-established health insurance marketplaces; and
- back pay for furloughed federal workers.
While the budget conference committee is a return to the regular way of doing business in the Congress, it does mean that everything is on the table for consideration, including proposals that could be harmful to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The conference committee is charged with finding common ground between the FY 2014 House and Senate Budgets that were passed earlier this year. The FY 2014 House Budget included cuts to entitlement programs, such as block granting Medicaid and dramatically cutting spending for the program, and turning Medicare into a voucher program for new enrollees. In addition, the House Budget calls for plans to be developed to improve the long term fiscal health of Social Security programs and further cuts to discretionary programs (which include disability-related programs such as housing, education, and employment). The FY 2014 Senate Budget also includes cuts to both Medicaid and Medicare, though much smaller ones than those in the House Budget. Learn more about both budgets at: http://arcinsider.wpengine.com/2013/03/25/house-and-senate-pass-fiscal-year-2014-budget-resolutions/
Learn more about the budget conference committee at: