At 10:30pm on Friday night – with less than two hours to go until expiration of the Continuing Resolution (CR) funding all government programs – House Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama reached agreement on a spending bill for the remaining six months of the fiscal year.
The agreement has a few components worth highlighting: (1) a short-term CR that expires Friday, April 15th and allows sufficient time for the drafting and approval of a final appropriations package by Congress, (2) a final CR that cuts spending by $78.5 billion TOTAL relative to the President’s FY2011 Budget Request and approximately $38 billion TOTAL from the FY2010-enacted level, and (3) a series of standalone votes in the Senate on contentious policy issues that were excluded from the final 2011 spending bill.
The short-term CR cuts $2 billion relative to the FY2010-enacted level for a total of $12 billion in spending cuts that have been signed into law so far this year. Importantly, the Health Centers Program, the National Health Service Corps, and Community HealthCorps (funded through AmeriCorps) are not impacted by the funding cuts that have already become law. The short-term CR, H.R. 1363, was approved by unanimous consent in the Senate and by a vote of 348 to 70 in the House.
The final CR represents the largest spending reduction to non-defense programs in United States history. Again, the roughly $38 billion in spending cuts is relative to the FY2010-enacted level. We understand that discretionary cuts account for $20 billion of this total, with mandatory reductions making up the remaining $18 billion. Since $12 billion in discretionary funding cuts have already been signed into law, the final CR would contain $26 billion in NEW spending cuts. White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe stated to various media sources yesterday that community health centers were among those programs susceptible to cuts that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid worked to preserve. This is a very positive indication that negotiators in the room were working to protect health centers. That said, it’s clear from sources on the Hill that details of the final CR were still being worked out over the weekend and into today. Also, $1.14 billion in discretionary cuts is expected to come from an across-the-board reduction to ALL non-defense programs. Details of the final CR are expected to be made available later today, with a House vote scheduled for Wednesday.
It’s clear that final negotiations came down to the inclusion/exclusion of a series of policy issues, including funding for health reform implementation, funding for Title X, and the ability of Planned Parenthood to be a recipient of federal grant dollars. As part of the deal, none of the most controversial policy riders were included, but in exchange, the Senate Majority has agreed to hold standalone votes this week on health reform repeal and funding for Planned Parenthood. These votes should be largely symbolic since they will require a 60-vote threshold and are not expected to garner sufficient votes.
As of this writing, we remain cautiously optimistic of the final outcome for the Health Centers program as we await bill text. We cannot overstate the importance of all health center advocates’ extraordinary efforts over the past few months. We will send word on the final CR as soon as it’s available. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned!