Congressional compromise likely to give to global health with one hand, take with the other

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Congress Poised to Pass Budget Bill to Keep Government Running Until Next Spring

Congress is back in town but is unlikely to stay long as members consider a bill to fund federal government programs for 6 months – until March 27, 2013.   Passing this bill is essential to avoid a government shutdown on October 1—the first day of the new federal fiscal year.    The spending target for the bill as agreed to by House and Senate negotiators would translate into a 0.612 percent increase in most programs over current spending levels.  The House is planning to vote on the measure– HJ Res. 117–today and the Senate will likely follow suit in short order.

This so-called “continuing resolution” does not eliminate the threat of deep funding cuts that are slated to kick in on January 2 when the provisions of the Budget Control Act take effect.   The scheduled 8.5 percent across-the-board cut in all programs could become a much bigger cut beginning in April if Congress lowers spending levels and/or if Congress does not act to further delay or eliminate the “sequestration” process.  In the meantime, members of both parties are hoping that their respective political positions will be strengthened after the election and are anxious to return home to campaign for their jobs and to leave behind the political and legislative stalemate that has characterized this Congress for much of the year.

As reported in an August ScienceSpeaks, this budget compromise is helpful to the PEPFAR program at least in the short run because it delays a likely cut in the program.  The U. S. budget for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is another matter since there was some real hope of a budget increase as the Senate funding committee voted to support the President’s budget request of $1.65 billion.

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