The federal government experienced a roughly five hour shutdown last night, the second in 2018, after Kentucky Senator Rand Paul filibustered the sweeping budget deal and continuing resolution package (on the grounds of how much it would cost taxpayers) and refused to allow action on it before the midnight deadline.
However, passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 in the Senate was inevitable, and around 1:30 a.m., the chamber voted 71-28 in favor of the spending package (a summary of the bill can be accessed here). The House, in a 240-186 vote, followed suit and passed the bill around 5:30 a.m., after which time it went to and was signed into law by the president.
The measure includes a deal to raise the spending caps by roughly $300 billion over two years, increasing the caps on non-defense discretionary spending by $63 billion in FY 2018 and $68 billion in FY 2019 and raising the defense caps by $80 billion in FY 2018 and $85 billion in FY 2019. By lifting the federal debt limit until March 2019, lawmakers will push off future confrontations over the spending caps until after the midterm elections.
In addition to identifying the top-line numbers, the package also includes a stopgap spending measure that will keep the government funded at current levels through March 23, 2018, giving appropriators six weeks to finalize final omnibus legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2018. Other significant provisions in the bill include:
- An additional $2 billion for research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH);
- A funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional four years, lengthening the six-year extension that Congress passed last month;
- $7 billion over two years for community health centers;
- $6 billion for new grants and prevention programs to combat the mental health and opioid crises; and
- A $1.35 billion cut to the Prevention and Public Health Fund over 10 years (significantly less than the $2.85 billion proposed in the House’s CR).
With the negotiations on the overall spending caps out of the way, lawmakers will now begin to iron out the final details for FY 2018 funding legislation. While the bill makes a step in the right direction, there is still concern about how Congress will divvy up the 302(b) allocations, the amount of funding given to the respective appropriations subcommittees, such as Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. The Coalition for Health Funding, of which AADR is a member, recently sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to ensure health-related departments receive a fair share of relief.
As negotiations transpire, the community will encourage lawmakers for proportional relief for the agencies and programs of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and will carefully be monitor for any policy riders in the final FY 2018 omnibus legislation that could undercut public health.