Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Trade Package Remains Stalled in House

Drew Thies
The package of controversial trade bills, which contains a Medicare sequester expansion, has stalled in the House after the Memorial Day weekend.

Faced with numerous deadlines, the Senate acted Friday to pass the so-called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) portion of the package, though not with enough time for the House to act on the legislation.

Both the Senate and the House have a work week this week, where they forego legislative business to return to the districts and hear from constituents over the shortened Memorial Day week.

Factions in both parties have objections to the legislation, and more conservative House Republicans have come out against the legislation, making its fate in the House uncertain. Last week, enough Senate Democrats joined with Republicans only after certain concessions were made on policy parts of the package, such as currency manipulation.

The portion of the package containing the additional Medicare sequester, the Trade Adjustment Agreement (TAA), has not yet moved out of the Senate but is expected to gain momentum after lawmakers return.

In late April, the American Health Care Association along with other provider groups sent a letter to the House and Senate, criticizing the surprise addition of the offset extension and urged its removal from the bill.

Sequestration spending cuts mandated by a 2011 budget agreement included a two percent cut in Medicare provider payments, which extended through the ten year period of the budget pact. However, the aging of the 10-year budget window offers an opportunity to extend the sequestration savings. Several Medicare bills have been funded by an extension of the sequester past its original 2021 end date. The current end date is 2024.

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