Congressional uncertainty raises doubts on HHS funding

As Congress' five-week summer recess approaches, it remains uncertain whether lawmakers will act on an HHS appropriations bill for next year.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee's Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies subcommittee voted 8-6 to pass the full committee's fiscal 2013 spending bill for the HHS, Labor and Education departments that includes $68.3 billion for HHS. The legislation would also defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and end HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as of Oct. 1.

But it's unclear when—or if—that bill will move beyond its passage at the subcommittee level. In a statement Monday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking minority member on the subcommittee, released a statement that said the bill cuts $6.8 billion from last year's budget and will result in “obliterating” programs that provide healthcare, educate children, prevent the spread of disease and make sure seniors receive Social Security in a timely manner. DeLauro also accused her Republican colleagues of trying to hide their plans to cut these programs by not having a broader public discussion of the bill.

“We should have been able to discuss our differences and have the opportunity to improve the bill and stop elimination of critical programs,” DeLauro said in her statement. “The subcommittee's consideration of the bill last week was extremely limited to the public and clearly insufficient for such important legislation.”

Meanwhile, the full committee never planned a session to consider the bill this week, and the panel has yet to schedule such a meeting, according to committee staff.

DeLauro's complaint about a public briefing seems hard to argue, given that the legislation has been available for a week and passed through a public meeting of the subcommittee. But her concern about the bill's next steps is legitimate, especially as the panel has yet to schedule a date. Congress leaves for its summer recess on Aug. 3; and the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Could another continuing resolution be on the horizon?

Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter @MHJZigmond.



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