Rushing to avoid another government shutdown, the House narrowly passed a $1.1 trillion discretionary-spending budget last week to keep almost all of the federal government funded through September. At deadline Friday, the Senate had not yet voted on the bill but was expected to approve it.
The House bill prevailed by a 219-206 vote, with the bulk of support coming from Republicans. Passage of the budget deal was viewed as a victory for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his GOP caucus because it allows them to start with a clean slate when they take full control of Congress next month. Democrats threatened to derail the agreement, despite backing from President Barack Obama, in part over anger about a provision eliminating a piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation restricting risky bank investments.
The budget package, which House and Senate leaders hammered out earlier last week, includes $5.4 billion in funding to combat Ebola and prepare for future infectious-disease outbreaks. But the bipartisan bill also contained a controversial provision aimed at blocking a crucial risk-payment program to protect insurers participating in the Obamacare exchanges. Beyond that, funding for most key healthcare agencies was largely flat, continuing a trend of budget austerity in recent years.
When Congress reconvenes in January, Republicans will control both legislative chambers, positioning them to aggressively challenge the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and seek major changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
The Ebola funding was 13% less than the $6.2 billion requested by Obama. Roughly half that money will go to HHS. That includes $1.2 billion for international response efforts,