Published 9/1/2013

Budget Battles Loom in Washington

According to AAOS Advocacy Now, a bimonthly enewsletter prepared by the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) office of government relations, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have just 9 scheduled legislative days in September to address critical spending issues, including funding the federal government, before the start of the new fiscal year. Government funding runs out on Sept. 30 unless legislation is passed, and much work remains on the fiscal year 2014 appropriations bills.

Recently, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stated that Congress should pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded while legislators continue work on the eight spending bills that the House hasn’t completed.

“It’s clear that we’re not going to have the appropriations bills finished by Sept. 30,” said Speaker Boehner. “I believe a continuing resolution for some short period of time would probably be in the nation’s interest. But having said that, the idea of operating for an entire year under a CR is not a good way to do business.”

According to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, the House, the Senate, and the White House must come together as soon as possible “on a comprehensive compromise” that “repeals sequestration, takes the nation off this lurching path from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, reduces our deficits and debt, and provides a realistic top-line discretionary spending level to fund the government in a responsible—and attainable—way.”

ACA implementation to continue
Talk of a government shutdown has increased, as a group of more than 60 Republicans have signed a letter urging Speaker Boehner to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor, including any CR measure.

“In light of the administration’s recent delay of the employer mandate and the Internal Revenue Service scandal, it is imperative, now more than ever, that Congress do everything in its power to halt the implementation of the healthcare law,” wrote Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).The Congressional Research Service (CRS), however, says funding for the ACA and major pieces of the law, including premium tax credits and the individual mandate, would continue regardless of a government shutdown.

According to the CRS, substantial ACA implementation might continue during a lapse in annual appropriations that resulted in a temporary government shutdown for two reasons. “The first is that the federal government will be able to rely on sources of funding other than annual discretionary appropriations to support implementation activities,” CRS said.

The other reason that implementation might continue goes back to a “shutdown contingency plan” prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services in anticipation of a possible government shutdown 2 years ago.