Legislative Update For Week Ending December 2, 2011

Legislative Update For Week Ending December 2, 2011

Highlights of this week in Congress include: fallout from the Super Committee’s indecision; leadership changes at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and a new co-sponsor added to a key bill.

Super Committee Fails, Budget Faces Automatic Cuts
The Super Committee failed to come to agreement last week, resulting in a mandated sequestration of cuts in defense and domestic spending.  The sequester was intended to urge lawmakers on the committee to come to an agreement, however the stalemate will result in automatic 1.2 trillion dollar budget cuts over the next decade.

The 12-member bi-partisan panel failed to compromise after a nearly three-month effort.  Ultimately, the committee couldn’t come to terms with a common ideology of taxation and spending by the November 23rd deadline.  “Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve,” Senator Patty Murray (WA) and Representative Jeb Hensarling (TX-5) acknowledged in a joint written statement.

While a compromise was not reached, some consider the automatic budget cuts as a silver lining.  “The good news, if there is no agreement, the nation is going to end up with what Republicans said, there will be a dollar spending reduction for every dollar increase in the debt ceiling” said Hensarling.  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney echoed the same optimism: “It’s important to remember, however, that because of the Budget Control Act, the 1.2 trillion dollars that the Super Committee was supposed to achieve in deficit reduction will happen regardless.”

Medicare “Premium Support” Gains Momentum
Though the special deficit committee on deficit reduction failed to reach an agreement last week, it appears that the Super Committee was successful in shaping the discussion for future Medicare savings.  “Premium support” refers to a plan in which Medicare would subsidize premiums charged by private insurers that care for beneficiaries under government contract. Experts suggest this plan is gaining support.  “This is an idea that could easily resurface in the future as Congress seeks additional Medicare savings for deficit reduction,” said Patricia Neuman, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

New Top Official for CMS
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services continued its preparation effort for the new health care law by announcing Marilyn Tavenner as its new top official.  The move comes as the organization seeks to increase insurance industry oversight amid the overhaul process.  Tavenner replaces Donald M. Berwick.

New Co-Sponsor for Key Bill
Rep. Bill Huizinga (MI-2) pledged his support for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (CA-46) No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act last week.  If passed, the bill would prevent illegal immigrants from receiving earned credit toward Social Security benefits.  With the new co-sponsor, the total is now 69.