Friday, May 01, 2009


This Week in Washington - 5/1/09

Congress finished its work on the budget resolution this week. The President has indicated he will send up his detailed budget request next week, which will help move the appropriations process to the next stage. It will also include important details on the Administration’s revenue proposals, including “loophole closers” and other revenue raisers that can help finance important investments.

Congress passed a final budget resolution on Wednesday. Remember, as a resolution, it does not go to the President for his signature. The budget projects $3.6 trillion in total outlays, including $1.1 trillion for discretionary spending, in FY2010. It also projects a deficit of $1.2 trillion. It provides reconciliation instructions to the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees in the Senate, and to the Ways and Means, Education and Labor (HELP), and Energy and Commerce Committees in the House, largely to accommodate the passage of health reform. The late reporting date – October 15 – will allow the Finance Committee to put off the decision about whether to use the reconciliation process to enact health care reform legislation.

The House vote was 233-193. The Senate vote was 53-43. No Republican in either chamber voted for the final budget. Seventeen House Democrats – including Representative Kucinich – voted no. Four Senate Democrats voted no.

Adoption of the budget resolution will help move the appropriations process forward, and will help facilitate consideration of health care, education, and energy/climate change policies.

Meanwhile, House Blue Dogs continue to press for enactment of statutory pay-as-you-go rules to help restore fiscal discipline. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer put the Senate on notice, via letter, that the House will attach statutory PAYGO to legislation to extend middle class tax cuts, the AMT, the estate tax, or Medicare physician payments, and will not consider any bills or conference reports on these issues unless the bills or conference reports include statutory PAYGO, have been fully offset under traditional scorekeeping, or statutory PAYGO has already been enacted into law. Speaker Pelosi has also asked committee chairmen to find ways to cut spending on programs under their jurisdiction and report back to her by June 2. Her letter did not indicate the level of savings she is looking for.

As part of its deliberations on health reform, the Senate Finance Committee held a closed-door meeting yesterday to review options to cut costs and improve quality in the health care delivery system. In advance of the session, Chairman Baucus publicly released a policy options document, which can be found here. The Committee has not yet made firm decisions about these options, but many are expected to become part of the Chairman’s health reform “mark.”

Two additional policy options documents will be released following the “coverage” and “financing” roundtables scheduled for May. The coverage roundtable is scheduled for next Tuesday, May 5,th and we expect extensive discussion about the role of Medicaid in health reform. If one of your Senators is a member of the Finance Committee, consider contacting staff before Tuesday’s roundtable to reiterate the need to strengthen and improve Medicaid as part of health reform.

The Senate HELP Committee (of which Sherrod Brown is a member) also held reform-related events this week with hearings on primary care access and state-level reform efforts. As mentioned in last week’s email, the Finance and HELP committees are expected to mark up separate, complementary bills that will be merged into a comprehensive piece of legislation.

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