Health Center Federal Policy

Congressional Action on the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Uncertain as the Appropriations Process Moves Forward

By: Abigail Pinkele

This week, it has become increasingly unclear if Congress will work to pass a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget before moving on to consider their 12 appropriations bills including the Labor, Health, Human Services (LHHS) bill that includes annual funding for health centers. The lack of agreement on how to proceed with the budget process this year stems from the two year budget deal, the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA), Congress passed with President Obama’s approval last year. A write up on the details of the agreement can be seen here.

If the budget and appropriations process goes through regular order, Congress will pass a budget agreement and then proceed with the appropriations process based on the spending levels set in the budget agreement. This year, it is not necessary for Congress to pass a budget in FY17 given the topline spending levels have been agreed to and set in the BBA, but House and Senate Republican leadership want to pass a budget. They also want to work through the budget and appropriations process quickly and through regular order without any of the drawn out disagreements on spending levels they encountered last year. Congress will be recessing early this year to accommodate the National Conventions in the lead up to the Presidential election and Congressional Leadership does not want another potential government shutdown looming at that time. However, disagreements on the set topline budget levels Members of Congress are calling for increased spending cuts below current levels, which would ultimately be opposed by many Democrats.

Last week, a proposal was floated in the House to reduce spending levels by $30 million below the levels laid out in the BBA. More details on the proposal can be seen here, but disagreement within the Majority in the House on a budget proposal have stalled the budget process in the House. The Senate has put consideration of the FY17 budget on hold indefinitely and Senate Leadership appears to be focused on moving ahead with the FY17 appropriations process with a goal to have bills come before the full Senate in April.
The delay in considering a FY17 budget has not yet impacted the appropriations process and the Appropriations Chairs in the House and Senate are working quickly to get their respective bills to the full House for consideration. While the prospects for a budget appear to be bleak, situations have changed in Congress before. We will continue forward with our work on our FY17 Health Center support letters led by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) in the House and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in the Senate. These letters are critical to demonstrating support for health center funding levels during the appropriations process. Given there are proposals floating in Congress to reduce spending levels overall in FY17, health center advocates should remain vigilant in their efforts to secure the support from their Senators and Representatives.  Please check to see if your Member of Congress has signed on here.