Legislative Update for Week Ending December 9, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending December 9, 2016

This week, just hours ahead of the December 9th deadline, lawmakers in the House passed legislation to avoid a government shutdown and left town for the remainder of the year. They are expected to return to Capitol Hill on January 3, 2017 to begin the 115th Congress.

House Passes Funding Bill

On Thursday, with a vote of 326-96, lawmakers in the House passed legislation that will fund the federal government past December 9th. The short-term continuing resolution (CR) will provide funding at a $1.07 trillion rate – up slightly from the current rate of $1.067 trillion – through April 28, 2017.

At the time of writing this week’s legislative update, lawmakers in the Senate had not yet voted on the CR, and a coalition of Democrats had vowed to block it unless Republicans agreed to include year-long funding for the health care benefits of coal miners. The House-passed package includes funding for only four months, and Members of Congress in that chamber left town shortly after its passage.

It remains to be seen whether or not lawmakers in the Senate will reach an agreement before the midnight deadline. If not, the federal government will shut down like it did back in 2013. While not likely, an extended government shutdown could result in negative impacts for Social Security beneficiaries and doctors who treat Medicare patients.

The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) will be monitoring CR discussions in the Senate in the coming hours and days, and we will post updates on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, we will continue to monitor ongoing budget discussions since they are expected to include plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As was noted in a recent legislation update, repealing the law would impact the Medicare program in several ways. For instance, progress that has been made to close the prescription drug “doughnut hole” would be reversed, and the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund that finances Medicare Part A would lose an important stream of funding that the law created. The Trust Fund could face immediate depletion if eliminated.

The temporary funding measure negotiated this week is expected to buy time for President-elect Donald Trump and members of the 115th Congress to negotiate a broad funding bill that will likely include language to fast-track the Affordable Care Act’s repeal. In the months ahead, TSCL’s legislative team will be following these discussions closely, and we will continue to advocate for legislation that would reduce any negative effects on beneficiaries of the Medicare program. Visit the Legislative News section of our website for updates.