Congress Finalizes Debt Limit Deal
Congress finally passed S. 365, the Budget Control Act of 2011. The House passed the bill August 1, 2011 by a vote of 296-161, with 66 Republicans and 95 Democrats voting against it. On August 2, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 74-26; President Obama signed the bill into law later that day. Below is a summary of the deal.

The first part of the plan includes approximately $1.2 trillion of deficit reduction through the establishment of 10-year discretionary caps. In the first two years, there would be a firewall separating security and non-security spending. Total discretionary spending in Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 will be limited to $1.043 trillion and $1.047 trillion, respectively, about $7 billion and $3 billion below Fiscal Year 2011. The security savings would represent roughly $5 billion of the total $10 billion in reductions over this two-year period.

The plan provides for debt ceiling increases in two stages. The president may request a $900 billion increase now, of which $400 billion is immediately available. This $900 billion is subject to a resolution of disapproval in both the House and Senate. The disapproval measure would be subject to a presidential veto. Once the debt comes within $100 billion of the debt ceiling, the president may ask for at least an additional $1.2 trillion, which could rise to $1.5 trillion if a Balanced Budget Amendment is sent to the states or the Joint Committee process described below enacts more than $1.5 trillion in savings. This increase is also subject to a resolution of disapproval.

The legislation creates a Joint Committee tasked with achieving $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. A joint, bipartisan committee, made up of 12 members (six from each Chamber, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, and appointed by the majority and minority leaders in each Chamber), will be tasked with developing legislation to achieve at least $1.5 trillion in future deficit reduction by Thanksgiving. The committee's legislation, which can include entitlements and revenues, will be guaranteed an up-or-down vote in both chambers, without amendments, by December 23. If the bipartisan committee's recommendations achieve at least $1.5 trillion and are enacted by Congress, the debt ceiling will be raised by $1.5 trillion. If the committee's bill is enacted and produces between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion, the debt limit will be raised dollar-for-dollar. If the committee fails to produce a bill, its bill is not enacted, or it produces less than $1.2 trillion, the debt limit will increase by $1.2 trillion. Regardless of the amount of the debt limit increase, it would be subject to a disapproval vote, which would then be subject to a presidential veto.

If the joint committee fails to come to a majority agreement on recommendations that achieve at least $1.2 trillion, or Congress fails to enact recommendations that produce at least that amount, sequestration is triggered, forcing across-the-board spending cuts. Fifty percent of those cuts forced by sequestration would apply to defense spending. The other 50 percent would come from non-defense discretionary and mandatory spending with exemptions for many programs. Social Security, Medicaid, veterans' benefits, and other essential benefits are exempt from cuts. Medicare savings are not totally exempt, but would be capped at 2 percent and are limited to Medicare providers only — the sequester would not cut benefits.

Finally, as part of this legislation, both the House and Senate will vote on a balanced budget constitutional amendment before the end of the year. The plan does not make the debt limit increase contingent on passage of the amendment. Nor does it prevent a vote on an alternative version of the balanced budget amendment.

Yes, the whole thing is as convoluted as it sounds! The implications for issues of concern to the NLN could be monumental. Specifics will be leaking out over the next couple of months and we will pass the information along as we receive it.
House Postpones LHHS Appropriations Mark-Up
In an unsurprising move, the House postponed the July 26 Subcommittee markup of the FY 2012 LHHS Appropriations bill due to the debt limit negotiations. The markup will be rescheduled after the August recess. This appropriation covers Title VII - Health Professions Programs and Title VIII - Nurse Workforce Development Programs.

        Volume 8, Issue 6
              August 2011

Congress Finalizes Debt Limit Deal

House Postpones LHHS Appropriations Mark-Up


Government Affairs Action Center

Missouri Law Provides Grants for the Hiring of Nurse Faculty
On June 16, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) signed into law legislation, HB 223, the Advanced Placement Incentive Grant Program for STEM and Caring for Missourians Nursing Education Incentive. In part, the new law will help meet Missouri's need for more nurses by providing the state's colleges and universities with grants to enable the hiring of additional faculty to educate more nurses. The law also will provide more scholarships to Missouri students who pursue college degrees in math and science.

Nixon said that the section of the law adding resources so Missouri's colleges and universities can produce more nurses is critical. "Missouri needs more nurses, and this bill will help meet that demand." The measure creates grants up to $150,000 per year, per campus, to higher education institutions to hire nursing faculty to address areas of need. The grants will be funded by dollars generated through nursing licensure fees. The State Board of Nursing and the Department of Higher Education will determine categories and criteria for the grants.
Funding for Texas Nursing Programs Maintained
While the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) appears to have maintained funding for its nursing programs, it does stand to lose $10.2 million in state funding over the next two years. Nevertheless, the funding picture for UTA, the University of North Texas (UNT), and other universities in the state is not as bad as expected.

As for its nursing programs, UTA will likely get the $5 million it requested to continue offering programs through its Regional Nursing Education Center. UTA spokesperson Kristin Sullivan said, "Our hope is that it will continue to enable the College of Nursing to expand student capacity." Sullivan explained that, as the program continues to draw students, it must invest in technology and professors. The program had 6,600 students during the spring semester.

Senator Chris Harris (R-Arlington) and Representative Diane Patrick (R-Arlington) said that, despite the need for dramatic cuts in higher education, they pushed to maintain funding for the center, which includes on-campus and online nursing classes. "Although this has been a challenging budget session, due to the estimated $27 billion shortfall, we allocated available resources to the state's most critical areas: nursing shortage and student aid," Patrick said.
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