Back to Business in the Beltway: Recess Ends, Super Committee Begins Work on (Another) Deficit Reduction Effort

This week, the House and Senate return to Washington, hopefully ready to take on some significant lawmaking this fall.  There will be major Congressional action in the next few months on deficit reduction, spearheaded by the recently appointed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or “Super Committee.” This newly created committee is a 12-member bipartisan, bicameral committee charged with cutting the deficit by $1.5 trillion (or at least $1.2 trillion) by the end of this year.  Committee members were named before the August recess and this week the group begins its official business – members will have their first official meeting this Thursday, September 8th, which will be an “organizational meeting” and the committee will hold its first hearing on Tuesday, September 13th.

As we highlighted at NACHC’s Community Health Institute (CHI) last week, the Members of the Super Committee will have a significant role in determining government spending, and possibly revenue, for the coming years through the deficit reduction package they are charged with assembling over the next few months.  This 12 member committee is looking to broker a deal that achieves over a trillion dollars in savings, and no program, no policy – nothing – is off the table for their consideration.  While individual members are beginning to signal their personal and party priorities, the Super Committee could craft a proposal that heavily impacts health centers, our patients, and the programs we rely on for significant portions of our revenue – including Medicaid and health center Section 330 grant funding.   Here’s a rough timeline of what we can expect to come down the pike from the Super Committee in the coming months:

September 8th: First Super Committee meeting; organizational.
September 13th: First Super Committee hearing, topic not yet announced.
October 14th: Deadline for standing committees to forward their recommendations to the Super Committee.  To help them craft their proposal, the Super Committee will receive recommendations from existing committees in Congress which have authority over various programs and policies:  the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Senate Finance Committee , and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, for example, will submit recommendations to the Super Committee by October 14th with their suggestions for achieving savings or raising revenue, based on their jurisdiction.
November 23rd: Deadline for Super Committee to vote on legislative proposals, with a 10-year deficit reduction goal of $1.5 trillion.  The proposals must pass by a simple majority in order to move forward to the full House and Senate for consideration.
December 2nd: Super Committee will formally report proposals to both chambers, where they will be received and considered.
December 23rd: Deadline for House and Senate to vote on proposals, with no amendments.
January 15th: Deadline for enactment of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction – or across the board spending cuts are triggered.  By law, in order to avoid an automatic across the board cut to virtually all programs (sequestration), the Super Committee is required to pass a legislative proposal that both chambers must then pass and the President must sign into law.  If there is no agreement, across the board cuts will go into effect in the next calendar year.
January 2, 2013: If triggered, across the board spending cuts take effect.

With such high stakes, every single Member of Congress, and every health center advocate, has a role and a voice protecting health centers and health center patients.  As the Super Committee begins its dialogue and the search for savings, sign yourself and two friends up as health center advocates to be active in our new Campaign for America’s Health Centers website (www.saveourchcs.org) – the coming months will be full of activity and advocacy and we are counting on everyone to help continue and expand the Health Center program in the years to come.

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