Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are back to work today—including more than 40,000 staff from the Department of Health and Human Services—after Congress agreed to a temporary spending bill that will fund government operations for three more weeks.
The short-term fix, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Monday after both the House and Senate took final votes on the legislation, will fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years and will ensure that 1.7 million of children at risk of losing coverage will now have insurance for the foreseeable future.
The agreement put an end to a three-day government shutdown, and provides back pay to furloughed employees, but there is no guarantee that Congress will reach consensus on key issues that led to this week’s impasse before Feb. 8 when the short-term spending bill expires.
Republicans and Democrats are still divided over immigration policy, particularly Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides protections for young immigrants brought to the country by their parents without proper documentation. The policy is set to expire on March 5 and the White House administration wants Congress to come up with a bipartisan permanent fix before 600,000 current recipients lose their protected status.
Democrats agreed to pass the short-term spending bill after Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised Sunday that Congress would take debate up on immigration issues by Feb. 8.
Also on the line: a delay of proposed cuts to the disproportionate share hospital payments, not included in the latest spending bill. The cuts in payment are expected to devastate safety-net hospitals. In a statement, the Association of American Medical Colleges said Congress’ inaction on the pending cuts will harm "those who need care the most.”
In addition to the DACA program, AAMC said that Congress needs to address long-term funding for the National Institute of Health to continue research and extend funding for the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education, putting underserved communities at risk of losing current and future providers.
“All of these programs have earned strong bipartisan support, and action on each of them is long overdue,” wrote AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D. “Over the next three weeks, we strongly encourage Congress to finalize a bipartisan deal that enables robust investment in these key health priorities.”