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Chuck Ingoglia

President & CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Perspective on the 2014 Budget and Government Shutdown Debate

September 30, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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What is going on in Washington this week, and what does it mean for my organization?

I know that it is sometimes difficult to make sense of all of the news coming out of Washington – particularly this week with the back-and-forth over the 2014 budget, health reform funding, and the likely government shutdown. Here, I will try to provide a straightforward summary of what is going on and what it means.

Let’s start with some basics: The federal fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Each year, Congress has the responsibility for approving a budget for the federal government, which is usually done through the passage of 12 appropriation bills. However, the two chambers of Congress have not been able to pass this year’s appropriation bills and are attempting to temporarily fund the government using what is known as a continuing resolution.

What is a continuing resolution? A continuing resolution (or CR) basically funds the government at the previous year’s funding levels and policies for a designated period of time – in this case, 45 days. CRs are typically used as a stopgap measure to buy further time for negotiations on the appropriation bills.

What’s the debate over the CR? There is disagreement between the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives and the Democratic leadership in the Senate about the continuing resolution. The House is attempting to include various policy “riders,” including a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act, repealing certain taxes, and other matters.

It seems unlikely that this matter can be settled before midnight tonight, meaning that the federal government is likely to shut down beginning midnight, Tuesday, Oct. 1.

What would happen in the event of a shutdown? Essential government functions will continue to operate and be funded, but non-essential federal operations will be suspended. There will be no interruption in the provision of Medicaid financed-services, for example, but federal parks would close. Click here to view the Department of Health and Human Services’ explanation of essential vs. non-essential functions.

What does all of this mean for us? At this point, it is difficult to know exactly how this situation will be resolved. Early Sunday morning, the House once again passed a version of the CR containing provisions that neither the Senate nor the President want, including a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate is expected to reject the House version of the bill later today. That will then send a bill back to the House of Representatives that simply continues funding for the federal government to Nov. 15, 2013.  This bill will not include a one-year delay of ACA.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to know at this point exactly how the House will react.  At the same time, it is also clear that neither the Senate nor the President will agree to a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act. Enrollment in the Marketplaces will begin tomorrow, Oct. 1, regardless of whether or not the government shuts down. Insurance coverage in the Exchanges and Medicaid expansion becomes effective January 1, 2014.

It seems inevitable that the government will be shut down. For how long is anyone’s guess at this point.

It is also worth pointing out that Congress has to act soon (by October 17) on raising the country’s debt limit, or risk defaulting on our debt obligations. Failure to reach agreement on this matter has much broader implications for the country – in terms of direct economic impact and on our country’s perception in the rest of the world.

Stay tuned to the National Council’s weekly Public Policy Update for further information and calls to action.