By: Anne Morris, MPH
Since our last blog, the letter led by Senator Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Boozman (R-AR) closed the end of Friday with 42 additional Senators from both sides of the aisle joining Senators Stabenow and Boozman in conveying support for the Health Centers program in the FY2012 Appropriations process. We are very pleased with this showing given the current budgetary climate and reluctance on the part of many Senators to sign any letters being sent to the Appropriations Committee. The Stabenow-Boozman letter would not have enjoyed nearly as much support if it had not been for the efforts by health center advocates, and we are very appreciative of all of your outstanding work!
In the House, Congressman Bilirakis and Congressman Pallone are still accepting signatures for an addendum to the House Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education Subcommittee with additional signatures received after the Subcommittee’s May 20th deadline.
Looking ahead, we still await further word from the Senate about the timeline for consideration of its Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. Indications from the Hill are that this bill is unlikely to move in advance of the August recess. We have better signals from the House about its timeline and expect the House Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee to consider its appropriations bill on Tuesday, July 26th, with Full Committee consideration expected on Tuesday, August 2nd. As we previously reported, the House Labor-HHS-Education’s allocation for programs within its purview is at least $18 billion, or nearly 12 percent, below the FY2011-enacted level.
Given the magnitude of funding cuts the House Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee will have to make, our program – like many others – will be highly vulnerable to reductions in discretionary spending. This makes the Bilirakis-Pallone letter and a strong bipartisan demonstration of support for health centers all the more important. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill will be the starting point for the FY2012 appropriations process. We expect that there will ultimately be negotiations to reach final resolution on funding levels for individual Labor-HHS-Education programs – including the Health Centers program – that involve the House, Senate, and White House. Since the House is expected to act next month and there will be a condensed time period for Senate and White House action and involvement on FY2012 appropriations before the start of the fiscal year, it is critical that grassroots advocates continue outreach to and education of House and Senate offices about the essential work of health centers in their districts and states in the coming weeks. You can always check out our Federal Affairs Appropriations site for tools to inform your efforts, and of course we are always happy to answer any questions you have about the FY2012 Appropriations process.
Please stay tuned to Health Centers on the Hill for all the latest!