February 7, 2018 Federal Policy Update

Two-Year Budget Deal Poised for Senate Passage
Bipartisan Agreement Would Lift Budget Caps through FY 2019


On the brink of another government funding deadline and a second potential shutdown, Senate leaders appear to have reached a two-year budget deal that would lift overall budget caps for discretionary programs and alleviate the threat of another round of sequestration cuts.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer  (D-NY) announced this afternoon that the chamber would vote on a legislative package that will—in addition to lifting budget caps—provide another round of temporary funding through March 22 to allow lawmakers more time to work out a full-year FY 2018 appropriations proposal. This deal increases overall budget caps for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs by $63 billion in FY 2018 (roughly a 12 percent boost) and $68 billion in FY 2019 by amending the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). The bipartisan deal would be the latest in a series of two-year changes to the BCA and would lift the too-stringent caps on discretionary programs
The patchwork package Senate leaders hashed out would also include emergency supplemental funding to respond to recent natural disasters—fulfilling a Democratic demand. Additionally, the measure would extend a number of health care programs, including a two-year extension of funding for AAAs, ADRCs and SHIPs to provide outreach and enrollment assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries (MIPPA). n4a has been working in coalition on a solution to extend funding for these efforts after it expired last fall. At this point, it doesn’t appear likely that the Senate bill will address immigration policy, which could prove to be a sticking point for House Democrats.
 What Does a Deal Mean for Funding for Aging and Health Care Programs?
Assuming this bipartisan deal passes both chambers and is signed into law—which is still an uncertain outcome at this point—congressional appropriators would have six weeks to negotiate the details of a final FY 2018 federal funding omnibus bill. While it is good news that the Senate agreement would boost overall caps for NDD funding, we don’t yet have specific details on what it would mean for individual agencies and line-items such as OAA and other aging programs. Additionally, we have not yet seen details on any funding offsets to account for the overall $300 billion increase to both defense and non-defense spending caps. We anticipate that lawmakers will offset at least a portion of that increased discretionary spending, which could prove problematic for some mandatory health care programs.
If this budget agreement passes, advocates should once again weigh in with their lawmakers about how to allocate additional funding for aging and other NDD programs in FY 2018. Preliminary details on the budget agreement indicate that roughly $45 billion of the $63 billion increase for NDD funding is already directed toward agreed-upon priorities, including opioid response, NIH funding, the Veterans Administration, etc., which means that it will be incumbent upon advocates to ensure that remaining funding is appropriately allocated toward programs that serve vulnerable populations. Aging advocates must continue the drumbeat to protect SHIP funding, which was slated for elimination in the House FY 2018 funding bill, as well as to increase funding for Older Americans Act programs and other essential aging and health care services. 
Stay tuned to n4a’s Legislative Updates as this bipartisan budget agreement moves forward, and watch out for additional Advocacy Alerts with messaging for your Members of Congress about appropriations priorities as lawmakers finalize FY 2018 spending bills! If you want to reach out to your Members in the meantime, n4a’s latest appropriations advocacy messaging is available in our January 23 Advocacy Alert.

ThisLegislative 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 (agotwals@n4a.org) and Autumn Campbell (acampbell@n4a.org), 202.872.0888.

View this Legislative Update as a PDF.