Debt Ceiling? Super Committee? Continuing Resolutions?

September 2011 Monthly Message

Debt Ceiling? Super Committee? Continuing Resolutions?
What it All May Mean for Health Care in FY 2012 and Beyond – And Advocates’ Critical Roles
By Becca O’Connor, PAN’s Director of Government Relations

This has been an unusual year on Capitol Hill on several fronts.  PAN is monitoring a myriad of policy issues and we want to take the time now to update you on what’s happening with regard to the federal budget – as many of the decisions made in the weeks ahead will shape our future advocacy efforts.

While the current fiscal year ends on September 30, it is clear that Congress is unlikely to finalize a budget for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY 2012) before that date. What follows is a brief overview of what’s happening on the Hill, including several scenarios as Congress grapples with the national debt and the budget for FY 2012.
The “Super Committee”
In August, U.S. policy makers reached an agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and limit spending in upcoming years.  PAN is closely monitoring the ongoing deliberations, and working to ensure policy makers keep in mind the potential impact that any decisions about cuts to biomedical research will have on the Parkinson’s disease community. 

On September 13, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, commonly referred to as the “Super Committee”, began its official deliberations.  The Committee is made up of twelve members of Congress – six Representatives and six Senators, equally divided between the Democratic and Republican parties – and charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions, to be spread out over the next several years.  The deadline to submit these recommended cuts to Congress is November 23.  Congress is then required to vote on the Committee’s recommendations by December 23.  If the Committee fails to recommend $1.2 trillion in spending cuts to Congress by the November deadline, or if Congress fails to enact those cuts by the December deadline, automatic across-the-board cuts will be triggered, impacting nearly every aspect of the federal budget.

Several Committee members have demonstrated support for biomedical research and other Parkinson’s-specific issues.  For example, Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is the Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Parkinson’s Disease, lead sponsor of the H.R. 2595, the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act, and recipient of PAN’s 2011 Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service.  For more information about the individual members of the Committee, their history of support for issues we care about, and how to contact them, click here.
The FY 2012 Appropriations Process
In the midst of ongoing debt discussions, the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate continue to craft and refine their respective FY 2012 budget recommendations.  Among the funding areas PAN is closely monitoring is the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with strong support for initiatives including a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) (more information).  PAN is also monitoring discussions around funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which plays an essential role in speeding access to safe and effective therapies for individuals with Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

Because Congress is unlikely to pass a federal budget for FY 2012 before the start of the new Fiscal Year on October 1, on September 14, House leaders filed a Continuing Resolution to provide agencies federal funding through November 18.  A Continuing Resolution is legislation to provide funding for existing federal programs and agencies, generally at current levels, until a new budget is approved.  Though much remains to be seen, there is incentive to complete the FY 2012 budget shortly after the Continuing Resolution expires and the Super Committee’s November deadline.

Next Steps and Advocacy Opportunities
PAN will keep you apprised of the appropriations process and debt ceiling negotiations.  We have said it before, but it bears repeating: now, more than ever, our community’s vocal support for continued federal funding for medical research for treatments and a cure, is critical.

Please watch for our advocacy alerts in the weeks ahead.

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