On Tuesday evening, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) introduced a continuing resolution (PDF) that would extend funding for government agencies, programs and services at an annual rate of $986.3 billion—a sum that Rogers's office said is slightly below the current, post-sequestration level—through Dec. 15. The resolution is needed to prevent a government shutdown Oct. 1.
The intense opposition to the Affordable Care Act among a sizeable contingent of House Republicans is complicating the path of the funding measure. Under a plan that House Republican leaders floated Tuesday, the lower chamber would send the funding measure to the Senate only after the Senate voted up or down on defunding the healthcare law.
The vote was initially scheduled for Thursday, and the decision to delay it by a week suggests House GOP leaders need extra time to get the votes. A GOP leadership aide indicated that leaders are having conversations with members and making progress.
If that plan fails, it could be more likely that House Republicans directly eliminate reform funding in the spending bill and force a showdown with the White House and Democratic leaders in the Senate.
“The American people are witnessing yet another sign that Republicans can't get their own act together, even when a government shutdown hangs in the balance,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
Earlier this summer, GOP members in both chambers of Congress threatened a government shutdown when they indicated they would not approve legislation to continue funding government operations unless the spending measure defunded the Affordable Care Act. But a report in late July from the Congressional Research Service to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)—who had requested the memo—found that “substantial” implementation of the 2010 law might continue even during a lapse in annual appropriations. That's because HHS prepared a “shutdown contingency plan” in case of a fiscal 2012 shutdown that said the Affordable Care Act's activities would continue because of mandatory funding in the law.
As the political theater continues over the law and its funding, healthcare advocates on Wednesday expressed greater concern about the continued uncertainty that the healthcare industry faces under a temporary spending bill.
“The thing about continuing resolutions is they're becoming regular order,” said Ilisa Halpern Paul, managing government relations director at Drinker, Biddle & Reath. “What frustrates advocates is when we had regular order—and 12 appropriations bills—it was a chance for Congress to review all programs and make very targeted decisions about scope and investments,” she added. “And now we don't have that opportunity,” which she said allowed for a full discussion among congressional lawmakers, the federal agencies and advocates and opponents of particular programs.
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