Colorful Commentary

Federal Budget Watch, Jan. 9-13

Posted January 9, 2017 by Tim Hoover
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By Tim Hoover

CFI Director of Communications

binoculars-954021_1280This Monday, we’re going to start with some important background information provided by our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The budget resolution the Senate is considering has one primary purpose: to initiate and facilitate the “budget reconciliation” process so that House and Senate Republicans can repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without having to overcome a filibuster. The resolution also includes provisions to overcome certain procedural hurdles that the repeal bill and an eventual replacement bill might face.

The budget reconciliation process allows the Senate to approve certain budget-related legislation by a simple majority vote, with no opportunity for filibuster. To trigger the reconciliation process, Congress must first agree to a budget resolution containing reconciliation directives, as this resolution does. Importantly, a budget resolution likewise cannot be filibustered. (Reconciliation directives are optional and many past budget resolutions have not included them.)

This particular budget resolution doesn’t reflect any actual budget plans, but rather simply sets spending and revenues at levels the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates would occur if existing budget law and policy continues unchanged through 2026. The resolution’s dollar levels do not even incorporate the projected effects of repealing the ACA or enacting any replacement. In short, the measure is nothing but an empty shell that meets the form of a budget resolution but exists solely to contain the instructions that will start the reconciliation process.

Its reconciliation instructions are very simple — in keeping with the usual practice. They merely direct four relevant committees (the Senate Finance and Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pension committees and the House Ways & Means and House Energy & Commerce committees) to report legislation by Jan. 27 making changes to laws within their jurisdiction sufficient to reduce the deficit by at least $1 billion over 10 years.

As is customary, the instructions do not specify the changes to be made, but they are universally understood to involve repeal of substantial parts of the ACA. The savings targets bear no relationship to the budget effects of repealing the ACA but rather are merely placeholders. There are no rules against exceeding those minimal targets, and the reconciliation bill that actually repeals the ACA is likely to produce considerably more deficit reduction.

Once both the Senate and House have agreed to this budget resolution, the two House committees receiving reconciliation instructions will hold markups and produce the actual legislation to repeal the ACA.

They will then submit their legislation to the House Budget Committee to be combined into a single package for consideration by the full House. The Senate committees would normally use an analogous process, but it’s widely expected that the Senate will simply consider whatever reconciliation legislation passes the House rather than creating their own version in the health committees.

The resolution also contains provisions called “reserve funds.” They help avoid various points of order that might otherwise apply because of the mismatch between the numbers in the budget resolution and the policy of ACA repeal. And they also promote a policy that all but $2 billion of the 10-year savings from the initial repeal of the ACA should remain available to help offset the costs of subsequent legislation carrying whatever ACA replacement the Congress is able to design.

Preliminary timeline:

January:
• Congress passes budget resolution for FY17 as first step to repealing the ACA
• House moves first reconciliation bill to repeal the ACA with a delay
• Senate starts process of considering Trump cabinet nominations

February/March:
• Senate takes up House-passed ACA repeal bill; tries to pass by February recess
• Trump releases preliminary budget document/outline of budget plan
• Work may resume on the FY 2017 appropriations bills before the Continuing resolution (CR) expires on April 28
• Late March, House and Senate could start process on FY 18 budget resolution and try to get a budget conference agreement with a new set of reconciliation instructions by the April recess
• Process on second reconciliation bill begins in the House; tax reform and entitlement cuts?

April/May:
• Congress must pass final FY17 approps bills or a CR thru the end of the year
• Appropriations process gets underway for FY 2018
• Continued work/negotiations on ACA replacement?

Summer/Fall
• 2nd reconciliation bill moves in the Senate
• Debt ceiling must be raised (could be included in the 2nd reconciliation bill)
• Action on ACA replacement?

Follow this link for a state-by-state analysis of the job loss associated with repealing the ACA as well as the economic impacts.

Sign up for a #ProtectOurCare rally.

In Denver.
In Greeley.

Contact info for Colorado congressional delegation:

Sen. Cory Gardner – 303-391-5777 Email here.
Sen. Michael Bennet – 303-455-7600 / 866-455-9866 Email here.
Rep. Diana DeGette (CO District 1) – 303-844-4988 Email here.
Rep. Jared Polis (CO District 2- 303-484-9596 ) Email here.
Rep. Scott Tipton (CO District 3)- 970-241-2499 Email here.
Rep. Ken Buck (CO District 4)- 970-702-2136 Email here.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO District 5)- 719-520-0055 Email here.
Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6)- 720-748-7514 Email here.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO District 7) – 303-274-7944 Email here.

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