January 11, 2018 Federal Policy Update
Budget Deal Remains Elusive
January 19 Deadline Looms Large
Back on December 21, Congress passed a month-long continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open for yet another short-term period while they continue to negotiate a larger budget deal. The current continuing resolution expires on January 19, and while high-level talks have continued, it is unclear how close Congress is to a long-term solution.
Their primary challenge is to get a deal on raising the budget caps which currently constrain discretionary spending, yet Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on how much relief should be sent to defense programs and how much should go to all the other discretionary (or non-defense discretionary, NDD) federal programs. Previous bipartisan budget deals to raise the caps that were created in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) included parity between the two categories—a top priority for Democrats—but with a Republican White House, Congressional Republicans are pushing harder for more money for defense programs.
And yet…they have to secure some Democratic votes in the Senate to ensure passage, so we remain hopeful a budget deal will be reached, if not by January 19, then not long after. It is all but certain, however, there will be a fourth CR through mid-February—either to buy more time for a deal, or to give appropriators time to finalize specific funding levels for all discretionary programs. In other words, to finish the 12 spending bills they drafted last summer for a fiscal year that started on October 1, 2017! That CR is also likely to contain other legislative language, such as a two-year extension of the low-income Medicare outreach and enrollment (MIPPA) funding that n4a is championing, as well as a reauthorization of the children’s health insurance program (CHIP).
However, Democrats are also using that budget leverage to address other issues such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is set to expire in March unless Congress acts. This focus on DACA and other immigration issues could potentially affect the timing of a budget deal. While most lawmakers hope to avoid a government shutdown and are counting on deadline pressure next week to force a deal, the risk of a shutdown remains.
n4a continues to urge Congress to strike a bipartisan budget deal to raise the arbitrary BCA caps, alleviating—at least to some degree—the continued erosion of critical domestic discretionary programs like the Older Americans Act.
And as our December 4 Alert detailed, advocacy is still needed to secure the Older Americans Act Title III B Supportive Services increase called for in the House spending bill (a $14 million boost) and the continued funding for SHIP in the Senate version (vs. the House’s elimination of the program), so please continue to press your lawmakers in both chambers! We can’t let up our advocacy until the ink is dry on those final appropriations levels!
This Legislative Update is an n4a membership benefit. For more information about these and other federal aging policy issues, please contact n4a’s policy team: Amy Gotwals (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Autumn Campbell (email@example.com), 202.872.0888.