For months we’ve been advocating on behalf of health centers as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (termed the “Super Committee”) worked on a deal to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, per the Budget Control Act of 2011 – and yesterday we saw the Super Committee concede they will not meet their goal. Technically, the deadline for the Super Committee vote is November 23rd – this Wednesday – however, the committee needed to come up with a plan, and have it to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to be scored for savings by Monday at the latest. Yesterday, as the CBO deadline passed, the co-chairs of the committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), issued a joint statement announcing the committee could not reach bipartisan agreement before the committee’s deadline.
Members of Congress and party leadership on both sides have been telegraphing their responses to the Super Committee’s failure to make a deal with Op-Eds, public statements, and appearances. House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid both published opinion editorials (click on the leaders’ names to read their respective editorials) expressing their reactions to the Super Committee’s outcome. President Obama threatened to veto any efforts to change the sequestration rules set out in the Budget Control Act which are now scheduled to cut defense and domestic programs by an additional $1.2 trillion as a result of the Super Committee’s failure. The President did urge Congress to propose another way to reach the $1.2 trillion in spending reduction that does not involve the automatic cuts. Under current law, the automatic across the board cuts that total $1.2 trillion (sequestration) will take place in January of 2013. Notably, Medicaid and Social Security, are exempted from the automatic cuts and Medicare cuts are limited to a 2% reduction to providers. Despite the President’s veto threat, some Republican Members of Congress have already started working on a plan to block the automatic cuts that would impact defense spending.
As the President and other legislators have noted, there is still over a year for Congress to propose an alternative plan to sequestration – and there are a host of proposals to reduce the deficit floating around from deficit groups that have gone before including Simpson-Bowles and the Gang of Six. If a bipartisan agreement can be reached, or Congress chooses to change sequestration rules, then the game will change again. However, with 2012 being an election year, there seems to be little optimism for any monumental bipartisan breakthroughs at this point in time. But for now, we break for Thanksgiving with a near certainty that the Super Committee’s work is done.
Stay tuned in the weeks to come as we provide you with a more detailed breakdown of what the current landscape will mean for health centers in the wake of the Super Committee’s failure to reach an agreement and where things will be going from here.