Capitol Correspondence - 02.18.20

Key Takeaways from Congressional Hearings on President’s Budget Request

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As part of the budgetary process, Congress held hearings most of last week on President Trump’s budget request. The hearings featured testimony from key officials, including Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) chief Russel Vought, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Highlights from these hearings and the budget process include:

Senate Leader states Congress will not heed President’s proposal: As reported by Politico Pro: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this afternoon that his chamber will ignore President Donald Trump’s call for cutting overall non-defense spending in the upcoming fiscal year and is unlikely to vote on a budget resolution this time around.

Instead of writing spending bills that jive with the 7 percent cut the president requested for non-defense programs in fiscal 2021, Senate leaders plan to respect the $634.5 billion funding cap set under the two-year budget deal, H.R. 3877 (116), signed last summer.”

Money Follows the Person (MFP) discussed in the Senate: Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) used the Senate Finance Committee hearing with Secretary Azar to ask about the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program. Specifically, he asked Secretary about working with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to include savings generated by the program in its cost calculations to facilitate the program being made permanent by demonstrating that it is not a costly program.

Key Democrats focused on cuts to Medicaid and the safety net: Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicaid, issued a letter condemning the Administration’s attempts to cut the Medicaid program – while the letter focused on the Administration’s recent block grant proposal, it also discusses the federal budget. In the House Appropriations Committee, Politico Pro reports that “Democrats devoted a significant portion of time to railing against the White House for pursuing cuts to mandatory spending and curbing critical benefits for low-income people. Republicans and Vought argued that the administration is seeking savings through mandatory spending reforms, not outright cuts.”

Tax cuts made an appearance: As reported by ASAE, of which ANCOR is a member, “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week called on Congress to make permanent the individual tax cuts included in the 2017 tax law, saying the economy would benefit.” This is relevant to the disability community because tax cuts reduce federal revenue, which could create political pressure to reduce spending on domestic programs such as Medicaid. Secretary Mnuchin’s request for tax cuts seems to reinforce the Administration’s self-proclaimed focus on ensuring Medicaid accountability.

New resources on the President’s proposal:

  • This Politico Data Point chart elaborates more on the potential cuts encompassed in the President’s budget proposal, which could help readers identify policy issues on which the Administration might want to take regulatory action on this year.
  • This Center for Budget Policy Priorities wrote a blog on how the President’s proposal would affect people with disabilities.