Given that the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations process was not completed before the adjournment of the 111th Congress in December 2010, the federal government has been operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that is funded at FY 2010 spending levels. The CR is set to expire on March 4, by which time Congress will have had to enact another short-term CR in order to avoid a government shutdown, or a longer one that will last through September 30 – the end of the current fiscal year.
To that end, House Republican leaders unveiled legislation on February 11 for the remainder of FY 2011 that would trim more than $61 billion from the current budget – an amount that is nearly $100 billion less than the President’s FY 2011 budget request. The bill includes numerous cuts to programs and agencies under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), such as: $1.1 billion less than the FY 2010 level for community health centers; $647 million less than FY 2010 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the elimination of federal family planning grants; and $56 million less than FY 2010 for CMS contracting reform programs.
After the Rules Committee allowed for the legislation – H.R. 1 – to be brought to the House floor under an open rule that permitted amendments, nearly 600 amendments were filed by Members from both parties. Such amendments ranged from additional cuts to spending increases for key programs, several dozen of which were adopted by the House, including one that would block funding to implement the PPACA. After nearly a week of debate, the House approved H.R. 1 by a vote of 235-189 on February 19.
Following House passage, H.R. 1 moves to the Senate for consideration, where many of the included spending cuts have been met with strong resistance from the Democratic majority in the upper chamber. Congress is not in session this week, leaving little time for the House and Senate to come to an agreement on FY 2011 spending and increasing the likelihood that another stop-gap CR will need to be enacted prior to the upcoming March 4 deadline. But even that process is likely to be difficult, as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated even a short-term CR would need to include spending cuts – a proposition the Senate may not support.