Member Submission Deadlines for FY 2015 Appropriations Posted

Several subcommittees of the House of Representatives have posted their deadlines for receiving Members’ programmatic and language submissions for consideration in the FY 2015 Appropriations bill. Submissions are to be delivered electronically at http://appropriationssubmissions.house.gov beginning on February 26, 2014. Most subcommittees have posted deadlines in late March – early April. If a subcommittee has not yet indicated a deadline, Dear Colleague letters with Member Submission instructions will be posted as soon as they have been circulated. To view the entire list, please click here.

Dear Colleague Letter

Also known simply as a Dear Colleague, this is a type of letter sent by a member(s) of either the House or Senate to other members of that chamber of Congress. Typically, a Dear Colleague asks for members of Congress to support an issue, cosponsor/support legislation, or sign a letter in support of an issue or bill.  Dear Colleague letters are an internal Congressional advocacy tool to help make Members of Congress aware of issues, garner additional support, and then seek a particular action either by fellow Members of Congress, the White House, or a federal agency.  The letters can be sent electronically or hard copy and advocacy organizations often work with elected officials to have Dear Colleague letters circulated on their issues of concern and priority.

Health Care on the Hill: February, 2014

“An Examination of Veteran Access to Traditional and Alternative Forms of Mental Health Therapy”
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health
Thursday, February 20, 2014, 10:00am
Broadcast Online

Hearing to Receive Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans
Joint House and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 2:00pm
345 Cannon House Office Building

VA Accountability: Assessing Actions Taken in Response to Subcommittee Oversight
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health
Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 10:00am
334 Cannon House Office Building

An Update from Washington – Debt Ceiling, Taxes, and Health Care – Oh My!

Election year politics already have arrived at the Capitol.  Members of the House and Senate in both parties have their eyes on November 4th and are putting forward agendas and proposals to position themselves favorably in the eyes of the electorate.  Look and listen for a lot of rhetoric—and possibly some action—on jobs and the economy.  With a significant number of Democratic Senate retirements and numerous competitive races, conventional wisdom is that control of the Senate is in play and that Republicans have a solid chance of taking the chamber in the November election.  Pundits agree that the House remains solidly in Republican control and the Democrats will remain in the minority for the next two years.

With the budget deal struck by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) late last fall, much of the Congressional work on the budget and federal appropriations already has been predetermined for the year.  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently announced the nation will hit its debt ceiling on February 27th; so before the deadline, the Congress is expected to enact a measure to increase the nation’s borrowing authority without the previous political jockeying and drama.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to China late last week—causing a Senatorial game of musical chairs with respect to the chairmanship of numerous committees.  The Senate Finance Committee, which has tax policy writing authority, will soon be led by Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has expressed an interest in rewriting the tax code.  Changes he wishes to make include increasing the standard deduction, using the tax code to incentivize businesses to invest overseas earnings in domestic infrastructure, and bringing closer in line the taxation of investment income and ordinary income.

The latest in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:  on Monday, February 10th the White House announced it again was modifying the requirement for businesses with between 50 and 99 employees—they now have until 2016 to provide health insurance to full-time workers (those working at least 30 hours a week) or pay a penalty.  This requirement already had been delayed a year; such businesses have one more year without being subject to the mandate.  Beginning this year, businesses with more than 100 full-time workers are required to offer coverage to at least 70 percent of their full-time workers or face a penalty; starting next year they must offer health care to 95 percent of their full-time workforce.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the House of Representatives are seeking to change the Affordable Care Act definition of full-time workers from 30 hours a week to 40; earlier this week, the proposal gained some momentum with three Democrats signing on as cosponsors of the measure.  However, with the Democrats still in control of the Senate, at least through this calendar year, it is highly unlikely such a measure would be brought up for a vote in that chamber.  Should the Republicans sweep in November, it is likely that starting in 2015, the President will be sent numerous measures related to repealing or replacing provisions of the Affordable Care Act; if such legislation is attached to other proposals, President Obama will be put in a difficult position of deciding whether or not to enact or veto them.  Only time and the election will tell what the future holds with respect to the long term viability of health care reform.

State of The Union

Yesterday evening, the President of the United States delivered his yearly State of The Union address to both chambers of the 113th Congress. He discussed the importance of strengthening the American economy, ensuring that we care for our troops, and his forthcoming approach to working with Congress on large legislative issues. The President also noted the vital need for robust, federally-funded initiatives which are very important to the nations’ health and economy. The text from that portion of the President’s speech is below:

“We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. And that’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery. (Cheers, applause.)

There are entire industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation. (Applause.)”

Full text of the President’s remarks to Congress are available on the Washington Post’s website:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/full-text-of-obamas-2014-state-of-the-union-address/2014/01/28/e0c93358-887f-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.html

New House GOP Appropriations Subcommittee Rosters Announced

House Appropriations Chairman Rogers announced new GOP Appropriations Subcommittee Rosters today.

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=368089

The subcommittee Chairs and Members are as follows:

Agriculture Subcommittee:
Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Tom Latham (R-IA)
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS)
Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Vice-Chairman
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Tom Rooney (R-FL)
David Valadao (R-CA)

Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee:
Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA)
John Culberson (R-TX)
Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Vice-Chairman
Andy Harris (R-MD)
John Carter (R-TX)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Defense Subcommittee:
Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Kay Granger (R-TX), Vice-Chairman
Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Tom Cole (R-OK)
Steve Womack (R-AR)
Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
John Carter (R-TX)

Energy and Water Subcommittee:
Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Vice-Chairman
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN)
Tom Graves (R-GA)
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)

Financial Services Subcommittee:
Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Vice-Chairman
Tom Graves (R-GA)
Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
Steve Womack (R-AR)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Homeland Security Subcommittee:
Chairman John Carter (R-TX)
John Culberson (R-TX), Vice-Chairman
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Tom Latham (R-IA)
Charles Dent (R-PA)
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)

Interior Subcommittee:
Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Mike Simpson (R-ID), Vice-Chairman
Tom Cole (R-OK)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
David Joyce (R-OH)
David Valadao (R-CA)
Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee:
Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Steve Womack (R-AR), Vice-Chairman
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN)
David Joyce (R-OH)
Andy Harris (R-MD)
Martha Roby (R-AL)
Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Legislative Branch Subcommittee:
Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK)
Andy Harris (R-MD), Vice-Chairman
Martha Roby (R-AL)
Mark Amodei (R-NV)
Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee:
Chairman John Culberson (R-TX)
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS)
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Vice-Chairman
Tom Rooney (R-FL)
Tom Graves (R-GA)
David Valadao (R-CA)
Martha Roby (R-AL)

State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee:
Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX)
Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Charles Dent (R-PA), Vice-Chairman
Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
Tom Rooney (R-FL)

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee:
Chairman Tom Latham (R-IA)
Frank Wolf (R-VA), Vice-Chairman
Charles Dent (R-PA)
Kay Granger (R-TX)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
David Joyce (R-OH)
Mike Simpson (R-ID)

FY 2014 Comes to a Close – All Eyes Turn to FY 2015

On January 17th, President Obama signed an omnibus bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 that includes all 12 appropriations bills. The legislation is more than 1,500 pages long and is a tribute to a bipartisan commitment between Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Mikulski and House Appropriations Chairman Rogers to fund the government through legislation rather than Continuing Resolutions. For details about the bills you can visit the links below:

Bill Text and Explanatory Statements

Summaries by Subcommittee

Information Graphs

Summary Released by Senate Chairwoman Mikulski

Now that FY 2014 comes to a close, we turn to preparing for the FY 2015 season. The President’s budget is supposed to be sent to Congress in early February after the State of the Union (January 28th). The new normal tends to see that date slip by a few weeks/months.

While FY 2015 pass backs from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were delayed while FY 2014 was being resolved, the process is now underway. According to CQ, the President’s budget is now expected to arrive on March 4th. This will then kick off appropriations season. It is expected (knock on wood) to be a bit more predictable this year as FY 2015 allocations were included in the budget deal passed in December.

Budget Deal Passed: Next Steps

As the year winds to a close, the House and Senate have both approved a bipartisan budget deal, which sets allocations for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and for FY 2015. The President is expected to sign the deal.

The agreement provides $1.012 trillion for FY 2014 and $1.014 trillion in FY 2015.  While it does not completely address sequestration, the budget deal provides some relief from the sequester for discretionary spending; $63 billion for both years.  For more information on the specifics of the deal click here: http://www.budget.senate.gov

So what happens next?

The House is now home for the holidays and the Senate will follow shortly. Appropriations Committee staff will be working overtime to try to draft language for the remainder of FY 2014 that Congress will consider when they return in the New Year. The current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on January 15th.

There are a number of different scenarios as to how FY 2014 will play out:

  1. An omnibus of all 12 bills
  2. Large package including some bills and CR for others where there is not consensus
  3. A CR with just a date change to carry the federal government to September 30, 2014 (least likely)

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. The current CR expires on January 15th, which does not allow for much time to draft language and get consensus. We could see another short term (possibly just a few days) CR to buy Congress some more time to work on the funding bills.
  2. Even though there has been agreement on FY 2014 and FY 2015 top line numbers and some sequestration relief, the debt ceiling will be another fight early in the New Year.
  3. The budget deal included a three month fix to the SGR (or doc fix), however, discussions around finding a permanent fix to this expensive issue will continue in the early part of the New Year.
  4. While the budget deal did provide some sequestration relief, the issue is certainly not resolved and will continue to plaque Congress going forward.
  5. The sequestration relief that was provided only addresses the discretionary side of spending and in fact extended the sequester for mandatory spending—meaning that Medicare providers will see another 2 percent cut to their reimbursement in 2014.
  6. The President’s budget for FY 2015 is usually delivered to Congress in mid-February but could be delayed until after the FY 2014  spending is resolved.
  7. Elections – wild card. While the general feeling is that most lawmakers want to get FY 2014 resolved, it is hard to tell how primaries and elections will influence the playing field. This will be something to watch.

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.

SGR Markups Move Forward

Thursday, December 12, 2013, promises to be a busy day for physician groups and other stakeholders interested in Congressional action to repeal and replace the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) system.  (Background on the SGR is available here).

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the Chairman’s mark (available here) and the House Ways and Means Committee announced it will hold a markup of its version of the legislation (legislative language is available here and a section-by-section summary is available here).  Both Committees’ actions will take place at 10 am tomorrow.  Like the Energy and Commerce Committee proposal, neither the Senate Finance Committee nor the House Ways and Means Committee proposal includes any offsets.

Meanwhile, the House is considering legislation that would postpone the imposition of the SGR cuts for three months and would give physicians a 0.5% update in their Medicare reimbursement.  (A copy of the legislation is available here).  The three-month patch also provides for a number of Medicare extenders and would delay Medicare’s controversial new “two-midnight” policy for inpatient hospital stays.

Congress is slated to adjourn by the end of the week.  While a permanent fix may not be possible in 2013, enactment of a permanent solution remains likely for 2014, particularly as CBO continues to reduce the 10 year score of the legislation (background available here).