Week Ending March 4, 2016
Supreme Court Nomination
New national polling shows a majority of Americans want to see President Barack Obama nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. However, Senate GOP leaders continue to say they will not even hold a hearing for a nominee. According to a CNN poll, 58% say they'd like to see the President nominate someone to the Court rather than leave the seat vacant until a new president takes office next year; 41% would prefer a vacancy. And 66% say that whomever Obama nominates should get a hearing in the Senate. AFSCME continues to work with a broad coalition of progressive allies on the nomination process. Several local actions took place in the states, including events in Ohio and Iowa, involving AFSCME activists.
House Adopts Bill Requiring State Medicaid Provider Lists
The House unanimously approved a Medicaid bill (H.R. 3716), that would require state Medicaid programs that operate fee-for-service or primary care case management programs to publish and periodically update an electronic directory of participating physicians. States would have the option to include other types of Medicaid providers as well. The bill would also require states and Medicaid managed care plans to identify and submit the names of providers terminated from Medicare, a state's Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program to the federal agency that oversees Medicaid and Medicare. The Obama administration supported passage of the bill.
House Budget Plan Would Cut $6 Trillion
House GOP leaders continue to struggle with efforts to produce a budget blueprint that their caucus will support. They may be moving closer to that goal with the release of a budget outline that would cut a whopping $6 trillion in federal spending over 10 years. The cuts would be achieved largely by changes to automatic spending programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. It is not clear yet if the plan would also cut SNAP, TANF, Social Security and other safety net programs. The details of specific cuts have not been released. The budget plan also calls for the House to vote on separate legislation this year that would save $30 billion over the next 2 years and $100 billion over 10 years. An additional part of the bargain expected to entice support of conservative Republicans, is the promise to hold a vote on a bill calling for a constitutional amendment requiring a federal balanced budget (BBA). AFSCME strongly opposes BBAs, which economists overwhelmingly believe would weaken the economy, especially during economic downturns, and lead to severe spending cuts in key domestic services -- such as education, Social Security, and health care.
The budget plan would comply with last fall’s budget deal to keep Pentagon and domestic program spending essentially flat ($551 billion in Pentagon spending and $518.5 billion on domestic programs for FY17). Some House members are calling for increases in spending for defense spending, and some conservatives are calling for further cuts in annual spending caps.
If House Republicans can produce votes to pass a plan, the Budget Committee would meet the week of March 16th and the full House would vote the following week. AFSCME strongly opposes any plan with such massive domestic program cuts and any plan without increased investments in domestic programs that would create jobs and strengthen the economy.
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