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 Legislative Corner

Super Committee Failure - What We Know and What Happens Next
As widely reported, the congressional Special Committee on Deficit Reduction (i.e. Super Committee) failed to develop an acceptable deficit reduction plan by its Nov. 23 deadline. Therefore, the next step in the process is known as “sequestration” where budgets will be cut evenly between the Department of Defense and non-defense spending. Specifically, defense programs would be cut by a total of $54.7 billion each year from fiscal year 2013 through 2021, with non-defense programs cut by the same amount. The $54.7 billion in annual non-defense cuts would come from both mandatory (entitlement) and discretionary programs.

Certain mandatory programs important to women and children are, however, exempt from sequestration. These programs include Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), child nutrition and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the cuts to non-defense domestic discretionary programs for fiscal year 2013 would be applied by an across the board cut of approximately 9.3 percent. For fiscal years 2014 through 2021, the cuts would occur through reductions in the statutory cap on total funding for non-defense discretionary programs for each of those years. The Appropriations Committees would then decide how to allocate resources within those newly reduced caps – meaning they could potentially greatly reduce or zero out some programs while sustaining others.

It is important to note that while many of the public health programs authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are funded via mandatory appropriations, this does not necessarily protect them from sequestration after the first year sequester. This means that Home Visiting, the Prevention and Public Health Fund and others are also potentially in line for some cuts through the sequestration process.

According to many media reports, Congress may try to approve legislation that would reduce the budgetary impact on the Defense Department. President Obama stated that he would not approve any bill that circumvents the triggers to cut spending. While the immediate impact of the failure to produce a plan is still very unclear, we know this for certain: defending funding for Title V and minimizing almost certain cuts is more important than ever and we will continue to need your help to make our case.

FY 2012 Title V Appropriations Update
Most federal programs – including the Title V MCH Block Grant – are operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) funding operations through Dec. 16. As this CR approaches expiration, it is uncertain how Congress will move forward with the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill. This remains one of the most controversial appropriations bills and the House proposal contains many policy riders to which the Senate objects.

Potential scenarios moving forward, include passage of an omnibus bill that finalizes spending levels for several federal agencies; an omnibus bill that funds all agencies except Labor, HHS and Education; a yearlong Continuing Resolution that holds funding at current levels; or possibly another short-term CR to provide more time to negotiate differences. In other words, the uncertainty about the FY 2012 appropriations end game continues, which we all recognize creates continued confusion and ambiguity. As soon as new details emerge, we will share them and we will continue to advocate for Title V and other critical MCH programs.