May 11, 2018 Federal Policy Update
Vote Expected Next Week on First Package of Spending Cuts
Aging Programs Spared in Initial Request
Lawmakers in the House could vote as early as next week on a package of spending cuts the Trump Administration requested this week. The measure, known as a rescission request, is a rare budgetary move established more than 40 years ago that allows the Administration and Congress to pull back previously appropriated funding as a budget-reduction strategy.
The request that the Trump budget office recently sent to Congress would retract $15.4 billion in currently unobligated federal funds, including $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which funds health care services for low-income children. The proposal also includes an $800 million rescission from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), the department within CMS established to test innovative payment and service delivery models to reduce federal health care expenditures. The remainder of the package would rescind federal funding for a number of programs within the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation and other agencies.
The current proposal does not target any of the funding appropriated in the most recent omnibus spending bill for FY 2018, including important funding increases awarded to Older Americans Act and other aging programs. Instead, this proposal, seen as the first in a possible series, would pull back unspent funds from previous fiscal years. This is the first time in over two decades that the President has submitted a rescission request to Congress, and at more than $15 billion, it is the largest request lawmakers have ever considered.
While the bill introduced this week to rescind previous years’ funding does not take aim at any current funding, the expectation is that this is one of several requests that the Administration will send to Congress. Because rescission measures only require a simple majority to pass both chambers, and are not subject to a filibuster threat in the Senate, if this bill succeeds next week, we fully anticipate the Administration would follow up later this summer or fall with another rescissions proposal for FY 2018 funding. If this happens, it would complicate current outlays because Congress has a 45-day window to consider and pass a rescission bill. While Congress is debating the measure, funding for programs included in the request is impounded by the Administration, thereby holding up the flow of federal dollars to states and communities. But again, it may not come to that.
What Happens Next?
The current request will likely move quickly through Congressional consideration. The House is expected to vote on it as early as next week. Should it pass the House—which is also likely at this point—the Senate would take it up for a floor vote shortly thereafter.
The measure could run into some procedural challenges from Democrats who contest that several of the mandatory health care programs targeted are not legally eligible for rescission. Additionally, there are several Republican Senators—especially appropriators who take very seriously their constitutional role to determine federal funding—who have indicated significant concern with the proposal, so it is unclear whether this measure would even have enough support to pass with a simple majority. However, if it does make it past Capitol Hill, it would be a successful “shot across the bow” for the Administration, which would then propose additional spending cuts.
If, however, this package—which is somewhat innocuous by targeting previous years’ funding allocations—is stopped in the Senate, it is possible that the Trump Administration’s budget office would scrap plans to send additional rescission requests to lawmakers. n4a will have additional details on this rare budgetary process in the coming days and weeks. We are keeping a very close eye on whether the Administration would target OAA and other critical aging programs in a future request.
For now, aging advocates must keep up the drumbeat to continue educating lawmakers about the importance of robust funding for OAA and other aging programs going forward. We encourage local advocates to keeping reaching out to thank your Members of Congress for supporting boosted FY 2018 federal allocations and to promote robust aging funding for FY 2019.
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 (email@example.com) and Autumn Campbell (firstname.lastname@example.org), 202.872.0888.