Progress on appropriations occurred this week in the House of Representatives, as the House Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education Appropriations Subcommittee marked up, and approved by voice vote, its Fiscal 2009 spending bill on Thursday.
Specific details of the bill, including funding levels for several federal TBI-related programs, were not made public, but are expected to emerge next week when the full House Appropriations Committee considers the bill.
Broadly, the measure - which is the nation's largest domestic spending bill - included a total of $626 billion in funding. Contained within that total is $153.1 billion in discretionary spending for the three departments (Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education), which represents $7.8 billion more than President Bush requested in his budget this year, and $8 billion more than was appropriated last year.
The rest of the bill's spending goes to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.
In terms of discretionary funding, flat funding or modest increases are expected for health and education programs, including federal TBI programs. The ultimate fate of the Labor-HHS-Education funding measure is unclear, as President Bush has once again threatened to veto any spending bill exceeding his budget request. To further complicate matters, Congress may use delay tactics to postpone action on the bill until after the presidential election in November.
In other appropriations activity this week, on Thursday evening, the House approved the latest compromise version of the war supplemental funding bill. The Senate is expected to take the bill up and pass it next week. This compromise bill contains a moratorium, strongly supported by BIAA, to delay the implementation of several harmful Medicaid regulations until at least April 2009.
Earlier this year, BIAA wrote a letter endorsing legislation to enact such a moratorium, and BIAA has joined many other groups in advocating for inclusion of the moratorium within the supplemental funding bill. A copy of BIAA's letter endorsing the moratorium ("BIAA Endorses H.R. 5613 to Curb Harmful Medicaid Regulations") can be obtained by visiting BIAA's website at the following address: http://www.biausa.org/policyissues.htm.
In addition to containing this important moratorium on harmful Medicaid regulations, the supplemental funding bill also includes important new veterans education benefits, expanding GI Bill benefits for all servicemembers who have served on Active Duty since September 11, 2001.