KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Temporary Budget Compromise Would Not Defund Health Law

News outlets covered the ongoing saga of whether Congress and the president will avert a government shutdown.

Politico: "Threats of a government shutdown next week had all but disappeared by late Friday as Democrats reacted favorably to a Republican plan that would keep agencies operating past Mar. 4 while making a first down payment toward a larger budget deal. The two-week peace is only temporary but gives House and Senate leaders through Mar 18 to try to resolve conservative demands for more than $60 billion in spending cuts, all concentrated in the second half of this fiscal year" (Rogers, 2/25).

Roll Call: "House Republicans late Friday afternoon released a two-week continuing resolution that cuts more than $4 billion in federal spending, including $2.7 billion in earmarks. The bill also has more than $1.2 billion in terminated funding that President Barack Obama included in his fiscal 2012 budget request" (Stanton, 2/25).

The Washington Post: "'We are encouraged to hear that Republicans are abandoning their demands for extreme measures like cuts to border security, cancer research and food safety inspectors and instead moving closer to Democrats' position that we should cut government spending in a smart, responsible way that targets waste and excess while keeping our economy growing,' Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said in a statement. ... Last week, in response to public anxiety over deficit spending, the House approved a plan to cut a total of $61 billion from virtually every federal agency over the next seven months" (Montgomery and Kane, 2/26).

The Los Angeles Times: "A House vote on the latest proposal could come as early as Tuesday. ... The new, short-term measure would cut $4 billion over the next two weeks by terminating programs Obama identified for elimination in next year's budget and by killing earmarks - special expenditures members of Congress have requested for their home states. ... But it excludes top Republican priorities, such defunding the health care law, pre-empting Environmental Protection Agency regulations of greenhouse gases and cutting funds for Planned Parenthood" (Mascaro, 2/25).

The Hill: "The programs targeted by Republicans in the short term do not include the most contentious cuts Obama has proposed in his 2012 budget request, such as reductions to low-income heating assistance (Liheap) or Community Development Block Grants. It also does not contain riders defunding environmental, telecommunications or health reform regulations viewed as poison pills by Democrats" (Wasson, 2/25).

CNN: "While Congress works to prevent a government shutdown over a deal to continue funding the government, President Obama and Republican Sen. Rob Portman used their weekly web and radio addresses to advocate against gridlock. ... Portman said the president's 2012 budget proposal would double the national debt and lock in higher levels of spending. ... But the president said his proposals, which include a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years and do not tackle entitlement reform, are 'just a start. If we're serious about tackling our long-run fiscal challenges, we also need to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in defense spending, spending in Medicare and Medicaid, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes,' Obama said" (Schwarz, 2/26).

The Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Portman reiterated Republicans' criticism of Mr. Obama's budget strategy, saying that merely freezing some spending isn't enough because the government's budget has increased in recent years. He criticized Mr. Obama for not doing more to address long-term deficits in his budget, which didn't focus on the problem of entitlement spending. The president's 2012 budget proposal 'not only kicked the can down the road but made the road more perilous by advocating deeper debt and ignoring bipartisan calls for entitlement reform and pro-growth policies, including tax reform and regulatory restraint.' For his part, Mr. Obama said he is "willing to consider any serious ideas to help us reduce the deficit-no matter what party is proposing them'" (Tracy, 2/26).

The National Journal notes that "the 17 government shutdowns since 1977 have all been blips on the radar, with the longest lasting 21 days, from December 15, 1995, to January 6, 1996. So what really happens when the government is shuttered? Not much. During the 21-day shutdown, less than 15 percent of the federal workforce was actually idled. National-security and public-safety operations continue. So do benefit payments, medical care, tax collection, border protection, prison patrol, crime investigation, and air traffic control. ... Nonessential employees, on the other hand, cannot report to work. In the first shutdown in 1995, which lasted five days, some 800,000 workers were furloughed; the second, longer closure resulted in 284,000 being furloughed, according to the Congressional Research Service" (O'Donnell, 2/25).

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