Health Center Federal Policy, Uncategorized

Congress Returns as Health Centers Await the Appropriations End-Game

by Anne Morris, MPH

This week, Members of Congress return to Washington for the orientation of new members, election of both parties’ leadership in the Senate and House, and completion of outstanding legislative business.  Appropriations bills are among the must-do agenda items for this lame-duck session.  Congress will need to act on these measures no later than December 3rd.

As we reported in a recent post, there are several possible scenarios regarding the final discretionary appropriations level and path forward for enacting FY2011 appropriations bills into law.  There are indications that a significant reduction in overall discretionary funding may be necessary to achieve passage of a final FY2011 Omnibus appropriations bill. This reduction could be at the proposed “McCaskill-Sessions” level, which is $6 billion below the proposed Senate level for discretionary funding and $12 billion below the House level.  Alternatively, the proposed funding level could be a yet-to-be-negotiated level by House and Senate Democratic and Republican Leadership. Given the current climate, it is clear that all discretionary programs (including the Health Centers program) are at risk for possible funding cuts.

We expect the final outlook for appropriations to become clearer as Congress reconvenes this week, with action on appropriations bills expected the week of November 29th.  While there are many factors that will determine the path forward, one interesting factor is that Members pursuing earmarks for FY2011 would need for an Omnibus appropriations bill to be enacted for these items to be included. A Continuing Resolution (continuing all programs at FY2010 or other specified funding levels) could not include earmarks.

NACHC and the Health Center grassroots continue to make the case for continued investment in the Health Centers program at no less than the FY2010 funding level of $2.190 billion, which is the level of funding necessary to realize the goal of doubling health center patients from 20 to 40 million by 2015.

NACHC staff continues outreach to House and Senate offices and targeted grassroots activities are underway on this issue.  Health centers should raise this topic with any Members they meet with during this lame-duck session.

Stay tuned to Health Centers on the Hill for all the latest!