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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congress is Back, Funding Debate Takes Center Stage

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With a potential government shutdown looming on October 1, legislators from both sides of the aisle returned to DC this week ready for a fight on funding for Fiscal Year 2017. As Capitol Connector has reported in the past, both chambers of Congress have made slow progress on finalizing appropriations for FY2017, making a short-term, omnibus spending package the most likely path forward. With just over three weeks until the Oct. 1 deadline, party leaders are stuck on not only the funding levels of any spending package, but the length of that spending package as well.

Last week, a group of conservative advocacy organizations sent a letter to Congress urging the approval of a six-month continuing resolution. This plan would maintain level-funding for federal government programs through March, 2017.  Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made clear that Democrats will not support any level-funding resolution that rolls into 2017. Citing the potential delay of new programs, such as those combatting the opioid epidemic approved in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), Leader Reid went so far as to insinuate the likelihood of a government shutdown should a six-month stopgap measure be pursued.

On the other side of the aisle, there is no indication of a unified plan moving forward. While House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) offered no specifics on the length of a potential CR, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) has already started his advocacy for a spending package that extends into the New Year. Chairman of the House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee Tom Cole (R-OK) told reporters this week that he is supportive of finalizing appropriations for FY2017 before the 114th Congress ends. He argued that lawmakers owe it to the next President to complete their work on time.

Despite the ongoing debate, the National Council remains diligent in its advocacy of securing funding for its top policy priorities moving into 2017. These priorities include the full funding of opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery programs authorized under CARA, continued access to Mental Health First Aid trainings, level-funding of the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration program and the expansion of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics demonstration program, which is set to begin next year. To learn more about these priorities, check out our website here.