Earlier today the Senate voted 78-17 in Executive Session to confirm the nomination of Ms. Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the new Secretary of The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Ms. Burwell was most recently the head of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget before being nominated for her new role. Ms. Burwell takes the helm of HSS from the former Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. A native of Hinton, West Virginia—a town of roughly 3,000, Ms. Burwell held the position of Deputy Chief of Staff working with Erskine Bowles in President Bill Clinton’s second administration. Ms. Burwell becomes the 22nd Secretary of HHS, an agency of over 70,000 federal employees across a number of important departments: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the Administration on Aging among others. The largest portion of the agency’s near trillion dollar annual budget is dedicated to funding the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) charged with running the Medicare and Medicaid programs nationwide.
Term: 302 (b) Allocation
Definition: Each year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees receive an overall funding allocation for the coming federal fiscal year. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees then, respectively, decide on how to apportion the overall amount to each of their corresponding 12 subcommittees. The amount assigned to each of the 12 subcommittees is known as a 302(b) allocation and taken together the 12 assigned amounts are known as 302(b) allocations. From this funding allocation starting point, the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees distribute federal spending authority throughout the specific departments, agencies, and programs under their jurisdiction.
Used in a sentence: “[Senator] Mikulski said that she and [Congressman] Rogers have discussed allotments, which appropriators call ‘302(b) allocations,’ for their section in the 1974 budget act. ‘I know what his are, but ours will be different,’ she said.”
History: The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 is a law that modifies Congress’ role with respect to the federal budgeting process. (Government Printing Office Public Law 93-344) The main provisions of the law created a process whereby both chambers of Congress agree on a single concurrent budget resolution. which is not signed by the President. Additionally, during budget debates members may raise budget points of order to have specific language removed from underlying legislation. (Senate Budget Committee) The final agreed upon Concurrent resolution passed in both chambers sets an overall top level spending figure (302(a) allocation) to guide appropriators as they craft the 12 individual appropriations bills. The chairs of the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate then each release a document setting their respective top line numbers for each of the 12 appropriations bills, known as 302(b) allocations, named after section 302(b) of the Congressional Budget Control Act. The 302(b) allocations outline the maximum spending levels for each of the 12 individual spending measures. It is not uncommon for the House and Senate to apportion funding differently and for the 302(b) allocations between the chambers to diverge. These differences usually get resolved during either a formal or informal conference committee between House and Senate Appropriators.
With the midterm elections just over six months away there are a number of notable retirements in Congress. To date nine Senators and 49 Representatives have decided to not run for reelection.
Notable in these retirements are the years of seniority and institutional knowledge leaving both chambers. A number of important Members will be leaving at the end of the 113th Congress.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA):
Harkin of Iowa will be retiring after five terms in the Senate. He is the current Chairman of the important Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee. This committee is responsible for overseeing the aforementioned including all discretionary health policy –anything that is not Medicare/Medicaid related. He is also an appropriator serving as chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee tasked with funding those important agencies and programs. This dual role of authorizing legislation and appropriating the funds for those authorized programs have helped to make him an effective leader in the Senate.
Representative Dave Camp (R-MI):
Camp of Michigan will be retiring after 12 terms in the House. He is the Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. This Committee has the constitutional privilege of introducing any revenue generating legislation giving the Chairman a significant amount of discretion over federal legislation in both chambers. In addition to taxation and some trade matters the Ways and Means Committee has oversight over all mandatory health policy meaning most matters dealing with Medicare or Medicaid.
Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK):
Dr. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma will be leaving the Senate early, due to a medical condition, having served two years into his second term. “Dr. No,” as he is sometimes affectionately called, has adopted the role of dogged watchdog of the purse-strings. He has used the many rights and privileges he has as a Senator to demand cuts and request that legislation meet “pay-go” and statutory budget restrictions.
Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA):
Waxman of California will be leaving after serving 20 terms in the House of Representatives across nine Presidential terms. In addition to a wealth of institutional knowledge he is taking with him, he is one of the strongest Democratic voices on climate change. As Chairman of the important Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Waxman overseas energy policy as well as health policy from the FDA, to public health programs to Medicaid and some Medicare policy. He was instrumental in helping then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi with crafting and aiding the passage of the Affordable Care Act in the House in late 2009.
Representative George Miller (D-CA):
Miller of California is another important leader who will be leaving at the end of the 113th Congress. Also from California and having served 20 years like Mr. Waxman, Representative Miller leaves the Chairmanship of the House Education Labor and Workforce Committee. In addition to chairing an important committee he is close friends with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The chamber will lose an able member of the leadership.