Senate panel advances spending bill that chips away at ObamaCare

Senate panel advances spending bill that chips away at ObamaCare
© Getty

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced a nearly $153.2 billion bill that chips away at ObamaCare, just after the Supreme Court upheld a critical portion of the healthcare law.

It marks the first time the full committee reported the measure in two years.

The legislation would fund the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and Education in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Those departments would receive $3.6 billion less than Congress enacted for this year and a whopping $14.5 billion less than President Obama’s request.

“This bill prioritizes programs that will provide a significant benefit to all Americans including providing the National Institutes of Health with a $2 billion increase to focus on advancing medical treatments, Precision Medicine and research to find a cure for Alzheimer's and cancer,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus Five things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike MORE (R-Mo), the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the bill.

During the Thursday markup, Republicans blocked amendments from Democrats, such as one that would boost funding above budget caps that will return in October for a slew of health and education programs.


Another blocked amendment would have reversed language in the bill that blocks funding to state-based exchanges operating under ObamaCare.

In the base bill, Republicans included language that would block funding for the Affordable Care Act's Risk Corridor program and block discretionary funding for state-based insurance exchanges. The measure would also require the administration to publish information about the number of employees, contractors and activities involved in the implementation of the healthcare law.

This comes as the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 6-3 to allow millions of people who purchased health insurance through the federal exchanges to continue receiving insurance subsidies.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Democrats propose ,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers Trump administration issues guidance scaling back paid leave requirement for small business employees Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday MORE (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees the bill, warned the Senate’s measure would make healthcare harder to get.

“This bill would hurt families and communities by making healthcare less affordable, less accessible, and more expensive — and by pulling back on our national commitment to high quality education as the ticket to the middle class for our students,” she said.

While the NIH would receive a funding boost, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would get a nearly 4 percent cut, of $251 million.

The Social Security Administration would receive a $185 million cut, which Murray said could result in a furlough of up to two weeks for that agency’s staff.

Under the bill, the Labor Department would receive $11.4 billion, a $575 million decrease from 2015, and the Education Department would receive $65.5 billion, which is $1.7 billion less than current levels.

One controversial policy provision would prohibit 2015 dietary guidelines from moving forward “unless they are solely nutritional and dietary in nature and based on a preponderance of scientific evidence.”

Others riders would prevent the National Labor Relations Board from moving forward with certain standards, decisions or rules, including one that would allow employees to vote electronically in union elections.

Altogether, the bill would eliminate 44 government programs, which amounts to $1.26 billion in cuts.