Congress passes funding bill, avoiding government shutdown, leaving questions on potential to realize new global health goals

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Capitol1118On Wednesday Congress approved a short-term spending bill to fund the federal government for ten weeks, hours before the midnight deadline that would have shut down the government. Congress now has until December 11th to negotiate a budget deal that would fund government programs through September 30, 2016.

Central to the budget negotiations are disagreements over raising some of the limits on federal spending, that if exceeded, trigger the across-the board budget cuts known as sequestration. The budget reduction law that includes sequestration went into effect in 2013 and is meant to cut $1.2 trillion in government spending over nine years.

Congressional Republicans are anxious to ease caps on defense spending, while Democrats and the Obama Administration have insisted that budget caps be raised for all programs. The effort of congressional conservatives to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood is expected to continue adding to the potential for a government shutdown in December.

Raising current caps could allow for increases in the global health budget, at a time when events have highlighted critical uses for that spending. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief’s recently announced new HIV treatment and prevention targets and the World Health Organization called Wednesday for more people to have access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment in light of research showing that early treatment slashes rates of illness, infection and death. In addition, raising the caps could allow for a larger U.S. contribution during the upcoming replenishment effort of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The current caps increase the risk of global health spending cuts.

Current budget caps only allow for spending to rise .2 percent in fiscal year 2016, a level that is less than the rate of inflation. The Obama administration has proposed raising the cap by seven percent, which would allow for an additional $74 billion to be spent.


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