Budget & Appropriations – House Committee Passes Labor-HHS-Education Spending Bill; Senate Blocks Spending Bill; Continuing Resolution Expected

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.

House and Senate Advance Important Fiscal Year 2016 Spending Bills

Last week, the House and Senate advanced the most important spending bills for disability programs – Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED).  Both would maintain overall sequestration funding levels and include a number of substantial cuts to programs, earning the promise of a veto by President Obama.

L-HHS-ED – Senate – The Senate bill passed the Appropriations Committee along party lines on June 25.  The bill’s discretionary funding level is $3.6 billion below the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 enacted level and includes numerous policy riders that would limit the activities of federal agencies.  Several federal agencies would receive significant cuts and a small number would receive increases. Notable examples include:

  • LABOR:  Includes a 4% cut for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs.
  • HHS:  Includes a 28% cut for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) program management that would restrict the agency’s ability to operate the Affordable Care Act programs, Medicare, and Medicaid.
  • EDUCATION: Includes a $1.1 billion cut for the Department.  However, the IDEA state grant program would receive a nearly 1% increase.

L-HHS – House – The House bill passed the full Appropriations Committee along party lines on June 24 and would provide discretionary funding at $3.7 billion below the FY 2015 level.  The bill also includes numerous policy riders. The House bill included spending cuts and select increases similar to those in the Senate bill:

  • LABOR: Includes a 2% cut for the Employment and Training Administration that helps to implement Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs.
  • HHS: Includes a $344 million cut for CMS.
  • EDUCATION: Includes a cut of $2.8 billion to the Department of Education.  However, this includes an increase of $12 billion (4.3%) for IDEA grants to states.

See the funding levels for specific disability related programs.

Spending Bills Slowly Advance; House to Mark Up Labor, Health, & Human Services, & Related Agencies Spending Bill

The House and Senate continue to advance FY 2016 appropriations bills. The House has passed 6 of the 12 spending bills on the floor; the Senate has passed three bills out of committee but none has yet reached the floor (see status of all appropriations bills here). The fate of these measures is unclear as the President has threatened to veto any appropriations bills that have sequestration cuts in place for FY 2016. The President’s FY 2016 Budget proposed to end sequestration for FY 2016 by adding $37 billion for both non-defense discretionary and defense discretionary programs. Congress has been deeply divided over keeping in place the sequester cuts for non-Pentagon programs and shifting more funding to the war-related Overseas Contingency Operations fund (OCO) which is exempt from sequestration cuts. Some Members believe that equal relief should be provided for Pentagon and non-Pentagon programs. Despite speculation about a possible deal to adjust current discretionary sequester spending caps, a Continuing Resolution (CR) may be needed to fund programs when FY 2016 begins on October 1. Spending deals may also get wrapped into broader negotiations at the end of the year, when it will be necessary to increase the federal debt ceiling again.

On Wednesday June 17, the House Appropriations Subcommittee will begin marking up its spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Heath, & Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED). The L-HHS-Ed appropriations bill includes funding for the majority of discretionary disability-related programs and will be made available on the House Appropriations Committee’s website on June 16. Most disability related programs have been cut substantially over the last few years. See a listing of specific human services programs and their funding reductions since 2010 when factoring inflation (disability-related programs are shown in highlight).

Concurrent Budget Resolution Passed in Senate

On May 5 the Senate approved a concurrent budget resolution for FY 2016 which begins October 1. The measure was approved by a vote of 51-48. The U.S. House of Representatives had approved the same plan the previous week by a margin of 226-197. While this budget framework is not legally binding, it serves as the blueprint for making decisions about spending and revenues in the coming fiscal year. The 2016 concurrent budget resolution includes several attacks on major programs that will harm people with disabilities, such as:

  • Possible permanent cuts and elimination of the entitlement to services in the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides the vast majority of long term supports and services (LTSS), including home and community-based services (HCBS), and many employment supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The proposed block grants to the states would require fundamental structural changes to the basic Medicaid program which could lead to states restricting eligibility and services or increasing costs for individuals, or other options to replace the reduced funding.
  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA includes numerous protections and benefits for persons with disabilities, such as prohibiting private health insurance exclusions for pre-existing conditions, eliminating annual and lifetime caps in private insurance policies, and restricting the consideration of health status in setting premiums.
  • Dramatic cuts to non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. NDD programs – which include early intervention, education, employment, housing, and much more – would be cut by another $496 billion from 2017-2025 on top of the sequestration cuts that extend through 2021. This would more than double the cuts in NDD programs over the coming decade. See the funding chart showing cuts to disability programs since 2010.

Learn more about the Congressional budget plan at http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-budget/ten-serious-flaws-in-the-congressional-budget-plan.

Senate Expected to Vote on Budget Plan

The Senate is expected to vote early this week on the compromise concurrent budget resolution (Senate Concurrent Resolution 11) which lays out a budget plan for the Committees to fund programs for Fiscal Year 2016.  Once the Senate approves, the next steps will include the relevant committees writing legislation to implement the outline in the budget resolutions.  A budget resolution does not go to the President for approval and it does not become law.  However, the resulting legislation must be passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the President to become law.

House Passes Budget Plan

The House of Representatives voted (226-197) on Thursday, April 30, to approve a compromise concurrent budget resolution (Senate Concurrent Resolution 11) which lays out a budget plan for the Committees to fund programs for Fiscal Year 2016.  The resolution maintains the statutory caps on discretionary funding such as funding for education, housing, transportation, and other programs.  It would also repeal the Affordable Care Act.  In addition, the resolution could result in permanent cuts and elimination of the entitlement to services in the Medicaid program –  which provides the bulk of long term supports and services (LTSS), including home and community-based services (HCBS), and many employment supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The concurrent budget resolution would require that the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Finance Committee find at least $1 billion in savings in programs under their jurisdiction.  The resolution does not specify which programs must be cut to reach the $1 billion.  However, authorization of these cuts allows fundamental changes to the structure of the Medicaid program in order to achieve these savings.  Structural changes to Medicaid are likely to include block grants to the states and reductions in eligibility and services.  Furthermore, the cuts could be much greater than $1 billion or the Congress could proceed with more extensive cuts in future years once the Medicaid structural changes are in place.

House and Senate FY 2016 Budget Conferees hold first meeting

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 House and Senate Budget Committee’s Conferees met for the first time on April 20. The Conferees are working to iron out the differences between their chambers’ FY 2016 Budget Resolutions. Since the differences are considered to be relatively small, they are expected to reach consensus and pass a concurrent budget resolution. Unfortunately, both budget resolutions contained drastic cuts to both the entitlement (Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security) and discretionary programs (e.g. housing, education, employment, protection and advocacy) that are critical for people with disabilities. In addition, they both contain reconciliation instructions which direct Congressional Committees to develop legislation to carry out the cuts to certain entitlement and other programs. However, any reconciliation legislation would then be subject to additional votes and ultimately presidential approval. For more information, see The Arc’s summaries of the FY 2016 House and Senate budget resolutions:
http://arcinsider.wpengine.com/2015/03/30/house-and-senate-pass-fiscal-year-2016-budget-resolutions-proposals-include-major-cuts-to-programs-including-medicaid/

The Senate Conferees are:

Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Charles Grassley (R-IA)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
David Perdue (R-GA)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Angus King (I-Maine)

The House conferees are:

Tom Price, M.D. (R-GA)
Todd Rokita (R-IN)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Diane Black (R-TN)
John Moolenaar (R-MI)
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
John Yarmuth (D-KY)
Gwen Moore (D-WI)

House and Senate Pass Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolutions: Proposals Include Major Cuts to Programs Including Medicaid

As expected, the House and Senate passed their Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolutions last week. The measures passed with votes nearly along party lines of 228-199 and 52-46, respectively. Both contain drastic cuts to the entitlement and discretionary programs that people with disabilities rely on. They would cut funding by block granting the Medicaid program (called “flexible state allotments”), privatizing the Medicare program, and freezing discretionary funding over the next decade.

Additionally, the House budget resolution includes several harmful provisions on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). It reiterates a House rule that creates roadblocks to preventing a 20 percent across-the-board SSDI benefit after 2016, and proposes cutting SSDI for people who also receive Unemployment Insurance after trying to work, but losing their job. The Senate budget resolution does not include these provisions.

Passage of the two resolutions paves the way for the House and Senate to begin negotiating a joint budget resolution.   See The Arc’s statement on the passage of the budget resolutions.

See a more detailed summary of what is in the budget resolutions in last week’s edition at:

House and Senate Expected to Vote on their Budget Resolutions later this week; Aiming to have agreement by April 15

Both House and Senate leadership have announced that they expect floor votes later this week on their annual budget resolutions (see details below). Congressional leaders also announced that they hope to have a budget agreement by April 15th. If the House and Senate agreement in the form of a Budget Resolution includes any budget reconciliation instructions, then the designated committees will begin developing bills to reach the spending cut targets specified. The Appropriations Committees will also begin working on their respective spending bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 which begins on October 1, 2015 using the totals specified by the Budget Resolution. Advocates are urged to oppose both budgets. Stay tuned for an action alert.

House 2016 Budget Released; Disability-related programs targeted

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, released the proposed House FY 2016 Budget Resolution on March 17.   The measure was passed by the Budget Committee the next day. While Congressional budgets are merely blueprints, they set the tone for spending and revenue priorities. The proposed House budget would cut overall spending by $5.5 trillion and reduce revenues by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Included in the spending cuts are combined cuts to the Medicaid program of $1.8 trillion. The proposed budget contains numerous specific provisions that would be devastating for vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities. Prime among these are:

  • Medicaid. The House budget would cut Medicaid by $913 billion over 10 years through “flexible state allotments,” resulting in a cut of more than 30 percent by 2025.       The federal government would no longer pay a fixed share of states’ Medicaid costs, starting in 2017.  Instead, states would get a fixed dollar amount known as block grants or “state flexibility funds” (the process for determining the amounts of these funds is not specified).
  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including Medicaid expansion. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded Medicaid to cover people with incomes up to 133% of the poverty level ($15,654 for an individual). The proposed House budget would repeal the ACA, resulting in millions of people losing access to health care.
  • Medicare. The House budget would fundamentally restructure the Medicare program, including privatization and over $100 billion in spending cuts over 10 years.
  • Discretionary Programs. Non-defense discretionary programs would be cut starting in 2017.       The total 10 year cut would be $759 billion, or 14 percent below the current caps. Included in this category are many disability related programs such as housing, education, employment, transportation, and protection and advocacy.
  • Social Security. The House budget would cut benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries who also receive Unemployment Insurance because they have attempted to work, but lost their job through no fault of their own. It also reiterates a provision in the House rules for the 114th Congress that sets up hurdles to a routine replenishment of Social Security’s disability fund, needed to prevent across-the-board SSDI benefit cuts at the end of 2016. Finally, the House budget recommends establishing a commission to look at Social Security’s long term finances.