Members of Congress returned to Washington last week after a 7-week recess, facing a tight schedule to keep the federal government funded after the start of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 that begins on October 1 and to fund efforts to combat the Zika virus outbreak. Neither priority advanced last week as the Senate again blocked an FY 2017 spending package that funds several agencies and includes Zika funding. Opposition from some members was due to the package’s policy riders, low allocations, and a lack of parity between defense and nondefense programs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated they are working to negotiate a deal on a short term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government past Sept. 30 and provide needed supplemental Zika funding. Enactment of a CR could allow for Congress to adjourn before their planned October 7 date so members facing re-election can return to the campaign trail.
On July 14, the House Appropriations Committee passed a fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED). The measure provides $161.6 billion in discretionary funding, a cut of $569 million from FY 2016 and $2.8 billion below the President’s budget. It was passed following a long debate on how to combat infectious diseases, including the Zika virus. Most disability-related programs were level funded, except for a few education programs that would take large cuts. Click here to see the line item funding levels and the percentage change from FY 2016. The measure also includes $300 million to address the Zika virus.
Also on July 14, the Senate was unable to clear a procedural motion to vote on a spending bill that includes $1.1 billion to address the Zika virus. The measure was blocked due to opposition to policy changes added to the funding bill, including one to prevent funding of Planned Parenthood clinics. Both chambers recessed that evening, leaving spending bills unfinished prior to their seven-week recess. One or more continuing resolutions are expected to fund the federal government after the start of FY 2017 on October 1.
On July 7th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) passed a fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding bill. The bill provides topline amounts and proposes spending $161.6 billion, a cut of $569 from FY 2016, and eliminates a number of federal programs, such as family planning services. Below are select proposed amounts for disability-related programs:
- Administration for Community Living (ACL) – $2 billion, which is $11 million above the FY 2016 enacted level.
- Special Education – $12.4 billion for IDEA special education grants to states, an increase of $500 million over the FY 2016 enacted level.
- The Social Security Administration – a decrease of $250 million from FY 2016 levels.
For more information, see the committee’s website and watch for a breakdown of program funding amounts in next week’s Capitol Insider.
The L-HHS-ED bill is expected to be considered by the full committee this week. To date, Congress has not passed any of the 12 spending bills. If Congress is unable to pass separate appropriations, a continuing resolution is likely.
On June 9 the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (L-HHS-ED) bill by a vote of 29 to 1. This bill, which funds the vast majority of disability-related programs such as education, employment, and protection and advocacy programs, would provide for $161.9 billion, which is $270 million less than the current FY 2016 level. There was generally little change to funding for disability-related programs from the FY 2016 levels. See proposed funding amounts here. Despite the advancement of this spending bill, one or more continuing resolutions at level funding amounts are expected as the start of FY 2017 on October 1 approaches. For more information, see the Committee’s website.
While the prospects of either the House or Senate taking up a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget resolution are unclear, a new fiscal threat is reemerging. On March 16, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch (R-UT) introduced a bill (S.J.Res 6) with 54 original cosponsors . This measure proposes a constitutional balanced budget amendment (BBA) prohibiting total outlays for a fiscal year from exceeding total receipts for that fiscal year. It contains a global spending cap that limits total federal spending to a severe 18% of gross domestic product (GDP), imposes a 2/3 vote requirement to raise revenues or exceed the spending cap, as well as a 3/5 vote requirement for raising the debt limit. The Arc strongly opposes a BBA because it would likely force drastic cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and a number of other programs that people with disabilities rely on to live in the community. Learn more here.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has approved H.R. 4725, the Common Sense Savings Act of 2016. This bill, introduced by Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA), makes major cuts to Medicaid and other health programs, many of which will negatively impact our community. These cuts are achieved by including certain one-time, lump-sum payments in determining income eligibility, such as: lottery winnings, damages received in a law suit or settlement, and inheritance; shifting certain Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program costs to states; and repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
The House Budget Committee passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget Resolution (BR) on March 16 by a vote of 20-16. The BR serves as a blueprint for the next 10 years, setting overall spending and revenue goals. The FY 2017 BR cuts spending by $6.5 trillion over 10 years, at least half of which is to programs serving people with low incomes. The Committee supported the BR’s discretionary programs limits of $1.07 trillion for FY 2017, the amount agreed to in last year’s Balanced Budget Act. However, many only lent their support in exchange for the BR’s drastic cuts to mandatory programs, including Medicaid ($1 trillion), Medicare ($449 billion), and other unspecified mandatory programs ($1.5 trillion) which are expected to include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps). In addition, non-defense discretionary programs (which include education, employment, housing, and transportation) would drop from $518.5 billion in FY 2017 to $472 billion in 2018, a 9% reduction; after that funding would stay flat through 2026, eroding with inflation year by year. A surprise amendment to the BR also passed which would have tens of billions of dollars in mandatory spending cuts be attached to a “must-pass bill” this year to force the Senate to consider it. The House announced that the BR will not be taken to the House floor until after the spring recess. In the meantime, leaders already have agreed to consider a related bill. This free standing measure would cut mandatory spending by at least $30 billion over two years and $150 billion over a decade.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee begins its markup session today on two spending reduction measures, including the Common Sense Savings Act (H.R. 4725). This bill would cut $25 billion over 10 years by shifting Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) costs to states and repeals the Prevention and Public Health Fund. On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee, is expected to take up H.R. 4723 that would recover health insurance subsidy overpayments due to underreported income estimates in health insurance exchange plan applications.
The House of Representatives continues to discuss the development of the FY 2017 Budget Resolution. The Majority leadership of key House Committees are promoting plans to cut entitlement programs. Cuts to these programs (which include Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security) are being offered as a way to gain support from Members of Congress who are opposed to the $30 billion increase in discretionary spending limits that would be allowed in the FY 2017 House Budget Resolution. As part of this effort, a package of bills has been introduced:
1. H.R. 4725, The Common Sense Savings Act. This bill would cut $25 billion over 10 years by shifting Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) costs to states and repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund that created in the Affordable Care Act.
2. H.R. 4722, A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require inclusion of the taxpayer’s social security number to claim the refundable portion of the child tax credit).
3. H.R. 4723, The Protecting Taxpayers by Recovering Improper Obamacare Subsidy Overpayments Act This bill would recover health insurance subsidy overpayments due to underreported income estimates in health insurance exchange plan applications.
4. H.R. 4724, The Reducing Duplicative and Ineffective Federal Funding Act.. The $1.7 billion annual SSBG supports a number of efforts, including services for persons with disabilities. Learn more here.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget and appropriations process is expected to officially begin tomorrow when the President submits his budget request to Congress. The budget will include funding requests for all federal executive departments and independent agencies, including those that fund the majority of disability-related programs – the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Housing and Urban Development. See current FY 2016 program funding levels here.