Bipartisan Senate budget deal boosts health programs

Mitch McConnell
This bill represents a significant bipartisan step forward," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

In a rare show of bipartisanship for the mostly polarized 115th Congress, Republican and Democratic Senate leaders announced a two-year budget deal that would increase federal spending for defense as well as key domestic priorities, including many health programs.

Not in the deal, for which the path to the president’s desk remains unclear, is any bipartisan legislation aimed at shoring up the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance marketplaces. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a vote on health legislation in exchange for her vote for the GOP tax bill in December. So far, that vote has not materialized.

The deal does appear to include almost every other health priority Democrats have been pushing the past several months, including two years of renewed funding for community health centers and a series of other health programs Congress failed to provide for these programs before they technically expired last year.

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“I believe we have reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on the Senate floor. “That’s compromise. That’s governing.”

Said McConnell, “This bill represents a significant bipartisan step forward.”

Senate leaders are still negotiating last details of the accord, including the size of a cut to the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which would help offset the costs of this legislation.