Senate and House Appropriations Committees Approve FY16 Labor-HHS-Ed Bills On 6/25/15, the Senate Appropriations Committee, by a vote of 16-14, reported out its fiscal year (FY) 2016 Labor-HHS-Education bill with the House Appropriations Committee approving its bill, by a vote of 30-21, on June 24. The Senate bill’s proposed allocation for discretionary programs is $153.2 billion, which is a reduction of $3.6 billion below the FY15 enacted level and $14.5 billion below the President’s budget request. $70.4 billion was proposed to fund the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a $646 million decrease from FY15. That includes $6 billion for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), $108 million below the FY15 enacted level and $221 million below the President’s budget request. The bill funds the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) at $65.5 billion, which is $1.7 billion decrease from the FY15 level.
The Senate Committee adopted by voice vote an amendment from John Hoeven (R-ND), that would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to use new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research on silica exposure. Furthermore, the Committee rejected an amendment by Bill Cassidy (R-LA), that would shift funds within the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) budget away from certain infectious disease programs toward other areas as well as rejected an effort by Mark Kirk (R-IL), to transfer $28 million from an administrative HHS account to the Title X family planning program.
The House Labor-HHS-Education proposed allocation for discretionary programs is $153 billion, which is a reduction of $3.5 billion below the FY15 enacted level and $14.6 billion below the President’s budget request. $71.3 billion was proposed to fund HHS, an increase of $298 million above last year’s level and $3.9 billion below the President’s budget request. Within that amount, the bill includes over $5.8 billion for HRSA, $299 million below the FY15 enacted level and $413 million below the President’s budget request. The bill funds the USDE at $64.4 billion, which is $2.8 billion below the FY15 level and $6.4 billion below the President’s budget request.
Republicans defeated more than a dozen Democratic amendments, but House Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK), endorsed increased spending for programs including the NIH and Corporation for National and Community Service. Furthermore, appropriators split along party lines on whether the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) should be terminated, with the result of the House proposing to eliminate it. The bill would block new discretionary funding for further implementation of the Affordable Care Act (PL: 111-148, PL: 111-152) and seeks to rescind unspent funds for certain programs, including $6.8 billion for the Center for Innovation at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Please view the AACOM Summary on the FY16 Senate and House Labor-HHS-Ed Appropriations bills
, which include provisions of importance to osteopathic medical education. AACOM continues to advocate for the preservation of important agencies such as AHRQ and will further advance our legislative efforts as the appropriations process continues.
President Signs Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015
On Friday, July 31, President Obama signed into law the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Center Choice Improvement Act of 2015, which extends through October 29, 2015, authority and funding for the Department of Transportation’s surface transportation programs and transfers $8.1 billion from the Treasury General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund. Furthermore, the law provides resource flexibility to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health care services and makes a number of changes to the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
The veterans’ title of the bill would permit the VA to transfer roughly $3.4 billion from the Choice Program, a program which allows those already enrolled in VA health care the ability to get health care from non-VA doctors, to cover a forecasted $2.5 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year budget and advert a shutdown of VA hospitals.
SCOTUS to Rehear Fisher v. University of Texas Case The U.S. Supreme Court has again agreed to hear the issue of affirmative action in higher education, announcing that it will consider whether the courts gave close enough scrutiny when they upheld the University of Texas' program to create racial diversity on campus. The case the justices agreed to hear, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, will give the court's conservative justices another chance to rein in or eliminate race-based preferences at colleges and university. The case is expected to be heard this fall.
The Court took up the same case two years ago, producing a 7-1 decision holding that lower courts were not demanding enough in their review of the University of Texas’ program. A federal appeals court took another look at the program and held again that it passed constitutional muster. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the decision to take up the case again. Her absence raises the prospect that the justices could wind up splitting evenly, which would result in no binding precedent for other cases.
In the prior case, AACOM joined with 28 other health professions education and medical organizations in signing on to an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) amicus brief supporting the University of Texas at Austin in its case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, et al supporting the ability of colleges and universities to consider a wide range of factors, including race and diversity, in the admissions process.