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On Oct. 20, 2013, the Senate completed a significant step for reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA).

By a unanimous voice vote, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved moving S. 1562 to the full Senate for consideration.

There was significant debate on an amendment offered by Sen. Burr (R-NC) to remove the provision in the federal to state funding formula, known as a hold harmless, which ensures that all states receive at least the Title III amounts allocated to them in 2006. Issues with the formula recently became apparent earlier this year when flat funding, compounded by the sequester, resulted in a major drop in overall dollars available which triggered the 2006 hold harmless and a wide variety of cuts among states.

NCOA does not take positions on formula fights because there are always winners and losers, particularly when appropriations are not increasing. For this debate, our concern is that it will upset the consensus that is so important for moving the legislation forward.

This issue is not a partisan one, as evidenced by the 7-14 vote on the Burr amendment. Sens. Franken (D-MN) and Hagan (D-NC) voted for it, while Sens. Roberts (R-KS), Kirk (R-IL), Hatch (R-UT) and Murkowski (R-AK) voted no. Chairman Harkin expressed his commitment to finding a solution by convening a workgroup to explore options.

It’s not clear how these discussions might affect the timing for floor debate, or whether failure to resolve the formula issue will threaten passage by the full Senate.