Colorful Commentary

Federal Budget Watch, March 14

Posted March 14, 2017 by Samantha Curran

binoculars-954021_1280Some of the long-awaited details of the House GOP’s health plan have been released. First, though, we want to call attention to a special report just released from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called, “At Risk: Federal Grants to State and local Governments,” by Iris J. Lav and Michael Leachman.

The report, which contains state-by-state data for your use, shows that low- and moderate-income families are likely to bear the brunt if federal funds that go to state and local governments as grants are cut. These grants help finance critical programs and services on which residents of every state rely.

Colorado, for example, receives $9.5 billion in federal grants, comprising 26.3 percent of state spending.

The programs these grants support are at serious risk of being substantially diminished or eliminated, based on past proposals from President Trump and congressional Republicans and the cuts likely in the forthcoming Trump “skinny budget.”

These programs are too important, particularly to low- and moderate-income people, to be considered as available resources that can be cut — either immediately or over time — to reduce the overall budget, to pay for greater defense spending or a wall on the Mexican border, or to finance other administration priorities such as deep tax cuts for high-income people.

Now, here’s the latest budget intel from our friends at the CBPP:

The House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce Committees considered and approved the legislation before they got a “score” or estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on how the bill would impact coverage and federal costs. Even without the CBO estimate, we already knew that the House GOP’s health plan would:

  • Effectively end the Medicaid expansion – which is currently providing 11 million people with coverage and has helped bring the U.S. uninsured rate down to the lowest in history.
  • End Medicaid as we know it by capping federal dollars and shifting billions in costs to states.
  • Make marketplace coverage less affordable and more out of reach for millions of Americans.
    Democrats on the Committees unsuccessfully offered dozens of amendments to the legislation.

Since then, CBO has released their estimates and found that the House Republican health plan would:

  • Cause 24 million people to lose coverage by 2026.
  • Cause the number of uninsured to rise by 14 million in 2018.
  • Cut federal Medicaid spending by $880 billion or 17.6 percent over the next ten years.

To read more on CBO’s findings, read CBPP’s blog, CBO: 24 Million People Would Lose Coverage Under House Republican Health Plan.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is plowing ahead with his plans to hold a House floor vote on the legislation as early as the week of March 20th, despite opposition from some conservative and moderate Republicans. From there, the bill is likely to go right to the Senate floor, bypassing the normal committee process. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has indicated that if the House passes the bill by March 24th, he will likely move to bring the legislation to the Senate floor the following week. The Center had expected that Sen. McConnell would bring a substitute plan to the Senate floor, but that no longer appears to be the case. Instead, McConnell aims to pass the House bill as is – or with only very small changes if necessary. It all depends on whether McConnell will have enough support to move the House bill within his Republican caucus. McConnell is still committed to passing the legislation before the April 10-21 recess, but several Republican senators have expressed misgivings about the bill as drafted.

The next several weeks are critical in our fight to beat the House Republican health plan in the Senate. Here are a few ways you can quickly plug in and lend your voice.

  1. Reach out to our Representatives and Senators. Email or call senators’ health care staff (as well as key state or district staff) to share information on why this bill is bad for Colorado.
  2. Make your voice heard. Tweet at, call, email and comment on the Facebook pages of our Senators and House members with opposition to the bill. The message to deliver in these interactions is:

a. In the House: Urge House members to oppose the House Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

b. In the Senate: Urge Senators to oppose the House bill or any similar measure in the Senate that would end the Medicaid expansion and the basic Medicaid program as we know it.

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.

For more information on how the House GOP’s Medicaid provisions will impact coverage and costs, check out these resources:

Completing FY 17 Appropriations

The House passed a defense appropriations spending bill Wednesday for the current 2017 fiscal year though the bill faces an uncertain vote in the Senate. Congress has only about five working weeks left before April 28, the date when funding for most federal agencies runs out under a continuing resolution appropriations measure adopted in December.

It’s highly unlikely that Congress will complete all the individual appropriations bills, instead extending the CR for the rest of the fiscal year for most agencies. That said, bipartisan negotiations are underway in the Senate to see if they can work out some of the appropriations bills.

To resolve their time crunch, senators of both parties have suggested they may try to pass a single final spending package for fiscal 2017, which would include the House-passed defense bill, all remaining unfinished appropriations measures, and any supplemental funding requested by Trump for the military and the wall/border security, said to be around $30 billion.

President Trump’s FY 18 Budget Request Coming March 16

President Trump’s fiscal 2018 “skinny budget” should arrive on March 16.

Administration officials have said Trump’s proposal would boost planned defense spending next year by $54 billion and offset the cost with deep cuts to domestic and international discretionary programs. Democrats have made clear they would object to any defense spending increase without an equivalent boost for domestic programs, while conservative Republicans are pushing to slash domestic spending to bring down deficits without raising taxes and ending a commitment made in a bipartisan budget deal in 2015 that called for parity between defense and nondefense spending increases.

For more information on what these big cuts in domestic programs would mean, check out CBPP’s blog: Trump Plans Big Cut in Domestic Programs.

Resources on Problems with a SNAP Block Grant

CBPP has three new resources that detail the problems with a SNAP block grant, or other proposals that would cap SNAP funding or merge it with other programs.

  1. A short video featuring Jared Bernstein, a Senior Fellow at CBPP.
  2. A blog post highlighting that Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) this week said a SNAP block grant “is not the answer.”
  3. A paper detailing the main problems with a SNAP block grant, including state-by-state estimates of the amount of SNAP funding that would not have been available in 2013 had a SNAP block grant been in effect at pre-recession levels.

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