Jodie Curtis

About Jodie Curtis

Jodie A. Curtis is a senior government relations director in Drinker Biddle & Reath's Washington, D.C., office. She has considerable experience in government, congressional affairs and health care policy representing and advancing the legislative and regulatory interests of non-profit, advocacy and health organizations. Her particular strengths are: strategic planning to craft winning tactics for clients to meet their public policy goals, fostering relationships with Congressional Members and staff, working the federal appropriations and authorization processes, building coalitions, developing public policies and setting organization priorities, planning and executing Capitol Hill advocacy days for hundreds of participants and organizing successful and creative grassroots campaigns. Jodie has particular experience in patient advocacy and global health. She has conducted dozens of training programs to teach citizens about their government and train them to be effective advocates at the local, state and federal levels and has lectured about health policy at numerous conferences and round tables.

Dewonkify – Manager’s Amendment

Word: Manager’s Amendment

Meaning: A manager’s amendment is a big amendment containing a number of individual amendments to a piece of legislation offered by the majority or minority Member of Congress managing the debate on the bill. A manager’s amendment is almost always agreed to by both sides in advance.

Used in a sentence: After much political pressure, House Ways and Means Chair David Camp (R-MI) determined that it was best to amend his Medicare physician pay reform legislation to include a .5 percent temporary pay increase in the manager’s amendment that was considered and passed by the committee in December.

What it really means: When legislation actually starts moving in Congress, be in committee or on the House or Senate floor, often many Members of Congress have amendments to offer. Sometimes these amendments are debated and voted on individually because they are substantial, controversial, or there is a political need to do so. Other times, however, there may be a number of amendments that both sides can agree to or that are technical fixes in drafting. In order to keep the process moving and not draw out the debate those amendments will be packaged together and offered as one amendment called a manager’s amendment. Since both sides have agreed to what is in the manager’s amendment, the amendment usually passes by voice vote or unanimous consent. Manager’s amendments are especially, but not exclusively, used for large pieces of legislation. Why is it is called the manager’s amendment? The person offering in the amendment is the majority or minority Member of Congress in charge of the debate on the bill, the “manager” of the bill.

House of Representatives 2014 Work Calendar Released

Yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor released the 2014 House of Representatives calendar. The House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session 113 days next year.  The rest of the calendar is devoted to district work periods where lawmakers are back home working with constituents.  The number of calendar days in Washington, DC is on par with those of recent years.  In what is typical for an election year, the House will look to finish up its work around October 2, 2014 and then be back home until after the election.  Start scheduling those Hill days, fly-ins, and 2014 vacations…but the calendar, of course, is always subject to change.

Nine days – that’s it!

Nine days!  Nine days for what you might ask?  The House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session for only nine daysbefore the end of the fiscal year.  The Senate is not exactly overlapping the House and they have scheduled 16 days in session scheduled.

As a refresher, by the end of the fiscal year, September 30th, the House and Senate are supposed to have passed their versions of a budget, reconciled the differences, and sent allocations to the Appropriations Committees.  The Appropriations Committees and their subcommittees then drafts bills (12 of them) funding government programs, send them to the House and Senate floors, pass them, reconcile any differences, send those reconciled bills back to the House and Senate floors, pass them, and then hopefully the President signs them.

So, where are we?  The House and Senate never agreed to a budget so while they skipped a few steps early in the process.  The Appropriations Committees in each chamber did mark up some of the 12 appropriations bills; some even made it the floor.  However, the two chambers are working off very different spending limits.  Most bills will not make it to the floor, some cannot even make it out of committee, much less the rest of the process.  So we are heading for a continuing resolution (CR) – legislation to fund the government on a temporary basis (although sometimes that temporary basis turns into an entire year) at the previous year’s level of funding.

The question now is how long the CR will cover or how long the government will be funded on this short-term basis.  The rumblings from the House Republicans seem to lean toward a shorter CR (say, two months), which would push the short-term CR’s deadline close to talks around the debt limit.  Reports are that Senate Democrats seem to favor a longer-term CR.  Somehow we knew they would not agree.  Oh well, they have nine days in September to figure it out…

Dewonkify: Deem

The Word:  Deem

Definition:  When the House and Senate have not agreed to a budget resolution, they may “deem” legislation to act as a budget resolution in order to move forward with the budget and appropriations process.

Used in a Sentence:  “The House on Tuesday will pass a resolution that will deem the GOP-passed budget resolution as passed for the purpose of setting budget targets as members work on FY 2013 appropriations bills.” From The Hill, “House to ‘deem’ approval of 2013 budget on Tuesday,” By Pete Kasperowicz

How it Works:  The law governing the congressional budget process, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, calls for the annual adoption of a budget resolution to establish levels of funding.  Section 302(a) requires that the aggregate amounts of spending in the annual budget resolution be allocated by committee; this is the overall number the House and Senate Appropriations Committees receive to fund the appropriations for that year. Section 302(b) requires the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to divide their allocations by subcommittee. Around Washington, this is literally known as the 302(b) allocation.  So, there is a problem when there is no agreed-upon budget resolution.  Complicating things, Members of either chamber may raise a “point of order” against legislation that would violate budget resolution policies.  In other words, if someone tries to bring up a spending bill, say the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, without an agreed-upon budget resolution and therefore no 302(a) or 302(b) allocation, a Member could object on a point of order.

The deeming resolution is how Congress gets around these issues. The deeming resolution simply “deems” or provides the new spending allocations to the Appropriations Committee. According to the Congressional Research Service, “they also may set new aggregate budget levels, provide revised spending allocations to other House and Senate committees, or provide for other related purposes.  A deeming resolution may even declare that a budget resolution (in its entirety), passed earlier in the session by one chamber, is deemed to have the force and effect as if adopted by both chambers.”  A deeming resolution is a simple resolution requiring only the majority of votes in the chamber to pass and become effective.

History:  Since the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, Congress has failed more than a few times to finalize a budget and has used deeming resolutions to “deem” funding allocations.

As the impasse between the House and the Senate regarding how to finalize a fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget resolution continues, talk of the House or Senate deeming funding allocations is heating up once again.

FY 14 Appropriations Outlook: Stormy Weather Ahead

This week the House Appropriations Committee will start marking up the first fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations bill (the Military Construction–Veterans Affairs bill, to be exact).  This will formally kick off what will be a rocky appropriations season.

Let’s start with that fact that there is no agreed upon budget resolution, which means no agreed upon overall budget numbers, which for you real budget geeks out there means no 302(b) allocations (the numbers that the each appropriations subcommittee gets that sets the funding level for their bill).  Not to worry, Congress will likely find a way around the official requirements of all of this, most likely through “deeming” allocations.

Now add the fact that because there is no agreed upon budget the House and the Senate will work off of different overall funding levels for appropriations to the tune of about $91 billion. This is not chump change in a time of already austere funding levels, which are impacting programs that are already starting to really feel the impact of sequestration.

By all accounts, the House is basing its number on the $967 billion budget cap, which includes the sequester, while the Senate has said it is aiming to use a $1.058 trillion cap, and their budget reverses the sequester, as well as include revenue raisers.  This will present a challenge for the relatively non-controversial “Mil-Con” bill, but expect the big fireworks to come when Congress gets to the big bills like Defense and Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHS).  That is if any of these bills get past subcommittee – Congress’ recent track record is not so good on that front.

As I said, hold on to your hat – stormy appropriations weather is in the forecast.

Dewonkify – Christmas Tree Bill

Word:  Christmas Tree bill

Definition: A Christmas Tree bill is used to describe a bill that is one of the few legislative vehicles that might move and actually pass in Congress at a particular time (usually before the end of the year or a congressional recess) to which various and numerous Members of Congress try to attach their favored piece of legislation.  These attached pieces of legislation are akin to ornaments on the Christmas tree.

Used in a sentence:This bill gets more and more like a Christmas tree; there’s something on it for nearly everyone.”

History:  No one knows for sure when and where the expression was first used, but the above quote from a 1956 Time Magazine article is thought to be the first published use of the phrase. (For 18 days, Senators had wrangled about the farm bill, introducing more than a hundred amendments, rejecting 31 and adopting 21. At the end of last week, with some 60 amendments to go, New Mexico’s Democratic Senator Clinton P. Anderson looked at the result and said the above quote.)

What it Means: The phrase is used in two similar but still distinct ways.  The first is focused more on logistics.  Thousands of bills are introduced every session of Congress; far, far fewer pass.  If a bill is moving through the legislative process, it may be one of the few things moving or the last thing moving before Congress adjourns (usually in December, hence the connection to Christmas).  If you are a Member of Congress and you have something you want to pass, you try to attach it to that moving bill. You hang an ornament on the tree, so to speak. The other similar way the phrase is used still focuses on the amount of items added, but the intent is slightly different.  Sometimes in order to get votes for a particular piece of legislation, leadership in Congress may be willing to add various Members of Congress’ pet legislation to a bill.  Again, adding an ornament to the tree.  The danger in both scenarios is that the tree becomes too heavy from all the ornaments and topples over leaving no tree and no ornaments.  It is all part of the delicate legislative dance – a Nutcracker Suite perhaps?

The Supreme Court’s Decision on Medicaid Expansion – Leave the Carrot, Take Away the Stick…

Although the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it did limit one portion of the law – the Medicaid expansion.  In the ACA, Congress expanded Medicaid to nearly all people under the age of 65 whose household income is at or below 133% of poverty. Currently, the Medicaid program, funded jointly by the states and the federal government, primarily covers pregnant woman, needy families, and the disabled.  Each state operates its own Medicaid program within federal guidelines. Because the federal guidelines are broad, states have a great deal of flexibility in designing and administering their programs. Under the law if a state refused to comply with the new coverage requirements, it may lose funding for not only the expansion population but all of its Medicaid federal funds.

The Court ruled that the expansion can stand and that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.  In real world terms, that means that states may now choose whether or not to participate in the expansion without risk of losing other Medicaid funding.

…Does the Decision Create a New “Donut-Hole” Population

What is not known is how many states will choose to participate in the expansion. If a state does not participate in the expansion where does that leave the population of people that are not covered under a state’s existing Medicaid program who would have been covered under expansion.   The law’s provision of subsidies to purchase health insurance on the health insurance exchanges doesn’t kick in until 133% of the federal poverty level.  This means those not covered by expansion won’t be eligible for subsidies to help them purchase insurance but may be required to hold insurance since the Court upheld the individual mandate.

And although some states may not want to participate in the expansion, the incentives are high, at least in the near term – the ACA provides that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of covering the newly eligible individual through 2015 with the amount decreasing to a minimum of 90% in the following years.  In addition, if these individuals are not covered then a major portion of those people who currently receive uncompensated care from hospitals and health care provides will continue to receive care and those providing the care will continue to be uncompensated.  The carrot of having more insured individuals is one of the reasons providers and hospitals agreed to receive less payment as part of the ACA, particularly for uncompensated care.  The states will have to make political, fiscal, and policy calculations of whether or not expansion makes sense for the state. The politics and policy implications of this will unfold in the months to come.  The expansions don’t kick in until 2014 leaving lots of time for debate around this issue.

House Appropriations Set Ceiling for FY 2013 Spending

The House Appropriations Committee have released their 302(b) allocations, or spending ceilings, for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 spending bills, including for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) bill. The LHHS bill contains the bulk of funding for health discretionary programs – think public health programs at the CDC, medical research at NIH, biodefense programs, etc. The House committee provides $150 billion for the FY 2013 LHHS bill. This is $7.7 billion less than what the Senate Appropriations approved last week and a 4% decrease from FY 2012 (see “Appropriations – This Is Getting Interesting“). Given that the LHHS bill is usually the most difficult spending bill for Congress to clear, a $7 billion dollar difference between House and Senate spending targets – not to mention real policy differences between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate – is not going to make the job easier.

Today is World Malaria Day

Editor’s Note: Erin Will Morton served as a co-author on this post.

April 25th is World Malaria Day — a day set aside to recognize global efforts to control malaria. Today malaria researchers from all over the country, including members of American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene will be on Capitol Hill to talk about the importance of their work. The World Health Organization estimates that there were 216 million case of malaria in 2011, with an estimated 655,000 deaths. Despite being treatable and preventable, malaria is one of the leading causes of death and disease worldwide. The United States has shown remarkable leadership and investment in efforts related to research & development of new tools to diagnose, treat, and prevent malaria, as well as combating malaria though programs on the ground. U.S. government investment in malaria R&D, including through the Department of Defense, CDC, NIH, and USAID, provides a foundation for breakthroughs in ending malaria deaths by providing basic research, product candidates, and critical support. Progress has been made in the fight against malaria. In less than five years, reported malaria cases have been cut in half in more than 40 countries worldwide. Malaria in the 11 high burden countries has been cut by more than 50% and deaths related to malaria are estimated to have fallen by nearly 150,000 annually.  These efforts are estimated to save 485 children each day from dying from malaria. Malaria is a wily foe though and we can’t back down on our efforts.  The United States must remain committed to funding cutting edge research & development in malaria and the important programs making a difference.

Appropriations – This Is Getting Interesting

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed on a largely bipartisan voted to spending targets for the fiscal year 2013 appropriations that are the same as the spending targets in the last summer’s debt deal.  Why is this so important?  Well, as noted in this blog post, the House’s budget would set spending below those spending targets and this produced a  preemptive veto threat from President Obama for any appropriations bills sent to him below the agreed upon spending targets.  It was not surprising to see the House Republicans and the Obama White House on different sides of this issue. What was more surprising was the the bipartisan 27-2 vote of the Senate Committee to agree to set the spending targets to the same as level as those in the debt deal.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of those Republicans voting with the majority.  This seems to send the signal that Senate Republicans are ready to move forward the debt deal spending limit, which again, are higher than the House spending limits, even if it means a tension with their Republican colleagues in the House. Getting to the appropriations end game just got a little more interesting.