Next Steps in the Federal Budget Debate
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Next Steps in the Federal Budget Debate

March 26, 2013

Act and Learn

  • Tell us how sequester cuts are affecting seniors in your community
  • See a side-by-side comparison of the FY14 budget resolutions

Before leaving for spring recess, lawmakers approved legislation to avert a government shutdown and fund the government through Sept. 30.

Both the House and Senate also passed their respective budget resolutions by Rep. Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Murray (D-WA). When Congress returns in early April, a conference committee will likely be formed to find a compromise, but that's expected to be very difficult because the resolutions are so different.

FY13 Funding Approved

Significant bipartisan majorities approved legislation to fund the government for the rest of FY13. The Senate vote was 73-26, and the House vote was 318-109.

The legislation is a combination of:

  • Five appropriations bills with detailed funding instructions

  • A continuing resolution that provides level funding for programs funded by the seven other appropriations bills

  • A select number of budget and policy changes (for example, funding  for the Community-based Care Transitions Program was reduced from $500 million to $300 million)

The FY13 legislation does not reverse the sequester, or across-the-board cuts that take effect this year. Earlier this month, the Administration on Community Living provided some estimates of what the sequester will mean for Older Americans Act (OAA) allocations to states. We will share final funding amounts for these and other programs serving seniors as soon as they're available.

FY14 Budget Blueprints Adopted

Both the House and Senate also adopted their respective FY14 budget resolutions, largely along party lines.

  • The House vote of 221-207 had 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against the proposal from House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI).

  • The Senate vote of 50-49 had four Democrats—Baucus (MT), Begich (AK), Pryor (AR), and Hagan (NC)—voting no with all Republicans on the budget proposal from Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA).

The House rejected the Senate budget blueprint, and the Senate rejected the House plan, largely along party lines. 

Senators also filed over 500 amendments to the Senate resolution, but only a few were brought to a vote. Among those adopted were amendments to:

  • Protect Medicare’s guaranteed benefits and prohibit Medicare vouchers by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), by a vote of 96-3. NCOA joined the Medicare Rights Center and other national aging organizations in support of the amendment.

  • Protect funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), by unanimous consent. Sens. Begich (D-AK), Blumenthal (D-CT), Johnson (D-SD), Franken (D-MN), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Merkley (D-OR) cosponsored the amendment, and Sen. Sanders noted the support of NCOA and other organizations.

  • Oppose cuts in the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by imposing a Chained CPI by Sen. Sanders, by voice vote.

Challenges Ahead

For now, changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are off the table. The debt ceiling deadline in late July appears to be the next time Congress might address the sequester and broader deficit reduction issues.

But unless and until members of Congress hear from their constituents about the very real effects of the sequester on critical programs like the Older Americans Act, Section 202 Housing for the Elderly, and LIHEAP, the sequester and its across-the-board cuts this year—and reduced spending caps for the following eight years—are likely here to stay.


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