With an April 8 deadline for a government shutdown looming, congressional negotiators have not yet reached a compromise that would allow Congress to finally enact a budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. As of Thursday morning, negotiators appeared to have agreed on a top-line level of $33 billion in spending cuts, although that number could change. There is no consensus yet on the question of whether the final bill will include so-called “policy riders” that make non-budgetary changes to federal policy. A particularly controversial policy rider would prohibit any additional federal funding from being allocated to health reform.
With $33 billion in spending reductions, the 2011 deal would come in at $29 billion less than what House Republicans had previously enacted and $23 billion more than what Senate Democrats have already agreed to in the two continuing resolutions that have kept the government funded since March 4. In crafting any deal, the House leadership is likely to face strong opposition from the most conservative members of the caucus, who have steadfastly argued for at least $61 billion in cuts this year – a level of cuts that included over $200 million in reductions to SAMHSA funding as enacted by the House earlier this year. However, without some level of compromise, the 2011 budget will not win approval in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee continues its work on a proposed framework for the 2012 budget. Recent reports from the House indicate that the proposal is likely to include levels of funding for Medicaid that can only be achieved if the program is converted to a block grant. This move would stabilize long-term federal spending commitments to the program but could have a devastating effect on states, beneficiaries, and providers who will be left bearing the risk if demand for services exceeds the federal funding allocated for the program. For more information about this proposed change, please see last week’s edition of the Public Policy Update. Stay tuned to communications from the National Council to learn more as this issue develops and take advantage of opportunities to take action against this change.