The Clock Is Running Out to Fund the Government
Congress needs to fund the government by Friday, March 11, 2022, to avoid a government shutdown. House and Senate appropriators have reached consensus on topline funding numbers, but discussions continue over aid to Ukraine and additional COVID-19 funding. At issue are not just the funding numbers, but also the potentially controversial policies attached, such as banning the importation of Russian oil and ending vaccine mandates. Regarding funding for Ukraine, Speaker Pelosi said last night that the package would include $10 billion in “humanitarian, military and economic support.” Regarding COVID-19 funding, the White House initially requested $35 billion, then reduced that request to $22.5 billion. It remains unclear whether the White House will receive the full funding request.
The House and Senate need to move quickly to get the government funding omnibus bill—for which text has not yet been issued—passed by Friday. The House is scheduled to be in session through Wednesday, after which Democrats will hold their annual issues conference in Philadelphia. As this deadline approaches, it is becoming less likely that the bill will include any significant healthcare priorities apart from a funding extension for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program. Stakeholders might look to other vehicles to advance healthcare priorities. Some options include the April 1 start of the Medicare sequester reductions, a reconstructed Build Back Better proposal, and legislation that might be necessitated by an end of the public health emergency. The political possibility of using these deadlines effectively to pass policies is challenging.
The tight timeline and lack of published text do not bode well for omnibus passage this week. If the omnibus is not completed, Congress may use a continuing resolution as a very short-term (potentially one-week) measure to fund the government while the remaining issues are resolved. The dire situation in Ukraine likely will push Congress to act as soon as possible, however.
Bottom Line: With the ever-changing nature of Washington, DC, be on the lookout for quick movement when a deal is reached.
Last week, The White House rolled out its 96-page strategy to move to the next phase of the COVID pandemic and prepare the nation for future outbreaks. This new vision along with the escalating fighting in Ukraine is shaping the debate on funding our government. Debbie Curtis and Rodney Whitlock preview how these factors are impacting a long-term deal to fund the government.