Congress Punts Decisions on FY 2017 Funding to Late April
Last-Minute Deal Avoids Shutdown as Lawmakers Head Home for the Holidays
December 13, 2016
Following Donald Trump’s victory in November and the request of the incoming Trump Administration, Republican leaders in Congress deferred major decisions on FY 2017 federal funding by passing a bill late last week to extend current funding levels until April 28, 2017. This strategy, known as a continuing resolution (CR), means that federal agencies and programs have funding certainty through most of April. However, a priority item for the 115th Congress, beginning in January, will be to figure out a longer-term funding strategy for a fiscal year that will be half-over by the time the next funding deadline arrives.
What Does a Continuing Resolution Mean for OAA and other Aging Programs?
Passage of the CR holds some good news for advocates who were concerned about the Senate’s proposed elimination of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and cuts to senior employment programs. Approval of the CR means that those cuts are off the table—at least in the near-term. However, the CR also means that House-proposed increases for some OAA programs, including Title III B Supportive Services and Title III C Nutrition Services will not be a reality in the near future. I
n order to stay under the budget caps for FY 2017, which were established in the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Agreement, an across-the-board cut of 0.19 percent was included in the bill. How this cut will be distributed across programs, however, will be determined by individual agencies, so we don’t have details at this point about what ongoing funding levels for OAA programs will be.
Federal Funding Outlook for the 115th Congress
The move to punt finalizing FY 17 funding until the spring means that the 115th Congress will have homework from the current Congress. The incoming Trump Administration, eager to have a say in spending levels, asked leading Congressional Republicans to leave long-term decisions about FY 17 until next year.
However, this move also complicates the list of necessary legislative action early in the new year. Not only must Congress work to either finalize or further extend funding for the current fiscal year, but as of early spring, lawmakers on the budget and appropriations committees will begin their annual work to work to determine funding levels for FY 2018 as well.
Congress and the Trump Administration will also have to deal with the politically contentious move to increase the country’s borrowing authority when the current debt ceiling is reached in March. Additionally, the current budget agreement, which raised the budget caps for FY 2016 and FY 2017, expires at the end of FY 17, and lawmakers will have to decide what—if anything—to do about drastically lower spending authority next year for federal defense and non-defense discretionary programs.
We also expect to see another layer of complexity in early year spending negotiations as lawmakers consider the unusual possibility of passing two Congressional budget resolutions next year. Doing so would prompt two opportunities to use a complicated budgeting process, known as reconciliation, to pass controversial, but filibuster-proof, legislation. We expect Affordable Care Act repeal (and possibly broad structural changes to the Medicaid and Medicare programs) could be achieved through this process next year. If lawmakers proceed with that strategy, we would anticipate ACA repeal early in the year through a budget reconciliation process for FY 2017 (the current budget year) and possible FY 2018 reconciliation proposals in the late summer or fall detailing other major changes to Medicaid and possibly Medicare.
What Can Aging Advocates Do?
At this point, predictions are, at best, just that—predictions. We are not sure of the exact course lawmakers will take to both finalize federal funding and make major changes to health care programs. However, we do know it is more critical than ever that local aging advocates weigh in with lawmakers and stress the need to protect and adequately funding OAA programs. It is also critical that we keep up the drumbeat about the need for funding increases for OAA and other aging programs. Stay tuned for updates about the FY 2017 and FY 2018 appropriations process as they are available, and continue to contact your Members of Congress with these important messages!