Last week we eagerly announced that leadership in Congress agreed to take up H.R. 1624, the bill to give states the ability to set their own small-group definitions instead of being forced into a single national standard. The vote was to take place on Wednesday, September 16, on the suspension calendar, meaning that it would bypass a lot of the lengthier legislative processes but would need two-thirds majority to pass. However, by Monday afternoon, our excitement quickly turned to apprehension as leadership pulled the bill over disagreements regarding how to use the $400 million in savings. As a result, the vote didn’t happen as planned and the situation remains fluid as to how to proceed.
Both parties are seriously considering using a continuing resolution (CR) as a vehicle to pass the legislation, as both are “must pass” before the end of the month. However, at this point, time is running out to act. The current federal government budget is set to expire at the end of the month; therefore, a new budget, or a CR, is needed to keep the government operating and avoid a shutdown. In recent years, the CR has become the more typical approach to funding government, which maintains current spending levels throughout all branches of government. This year, a short-term CR is expected while both chambers consider a larger end-of-the-year package. Because leadership in both parties and chambers have expressed repeatedly since the last government shutdown in 2013 that they won’t shut down again, there is hope and an expectation that this CR will pass before the end of the month. The problem is that neither chamber can agree as to how long the CR should last, with the chambers debating between a November date and a December date, so the small-group legislation is stuck until this is resolved.
The House is set to take next week off, but the Senate will be in session, meaning that it is likely the first chamber that will move on a CR. The earliest the House could vote is on Monday, September 28, leaving just three days before a government shutdown to act on a CR. NAHU and our coalition partners have been ramping up our messaging in meetings with leaders in Congress on the time-sensitive nature of the small-group legislation and why it must be passed as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the September.
You can help to echo our messaging on this by sending an Operation Shout on the issue here. As soon as we get word that the legislation will be moving in either chamber, we will push out another Operation Shout asking you to take action. Stay tuned on this latest saga brought to you by Congress!