The Bottom Line

June 23, 2014

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated his plans to bring up the Medicare Protection Act for a vote on the Senate floor.

June 20, 2014

Both the House and Senate have passed bills reforming the VA, and a conference committee must now meet to hammer out differences between the two bills. Yesterday, CRFB President Maya MacGuineas sent a letter to the 28 conferees, calling for the resulting bill to take a fiscally responsible approach and honor our nation's commitment to veterans without adding to the national debt.

June 19, 2014

One of the wonkier fiscal debates that arises from time to time concerns the accounting method used to measure the size of the budget deficit. This week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published an online primer that explains the different ways to measure the deficit and what these measures say about the government’s fiscal health.

June 19, 2014

Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bob Corker (R-TN) announced a proposal this week to close the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) shortfall by increasing the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over the next two years and indexing it to inflation. As we highlighted in our transportation paper this week, Congress should come up with a long-term solution to permanently solve the structural imbalance between current spending from the HTF and dedicated revenues into the HTF.

June 18, 2014

The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is scheduled to run out of money this summer, threatening to slow down construction projects around the country as federal funding dries up. CRFB has just published a new analysis showing the problems facing the HTF, and listing both options to extend the HTF in the short-term and to prevent a similar crisis in the future. You can read the full paper here.

June 17, 2014

The Congressional Budget Office today released a preliminary analysis of several sections of the House VA reform bill. Like the Senate bill that we analyzed last week, the legislation would increase VA health spending by allowing the VA to contract with private health providers. In fact, if appropriators fully funded the House legislation, it could cost more than the Senate bill.

June 17, 2014

Last week, Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation that would make targeted increases to Social Security benefits.

June 16, 2014

Note: Last updated 7/22/14. The status table below will be updated regularly throughout the FY2015 appropriations process.

The appropriations process is in full swing on Capitol Hill with both the House and Senate working on individual bills. We'll be here to keep you updated as they move through committee to floor consideration and eventually to the President's desk. This week, it appears action on individual appropriations bills has stalled. However, Congress may consider an immigration supplemental appropriations bill.

June 13, 2014

Now that both chambers of Congress have passed bills aimed at improving the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system, they will need reconcile their differences, likely via conference committee.

June 12, 2014

The Senate voted 93-3 yesterday on new legislation to expand veterans' benefits by allowing beneficiaries to seek out private (non-VA) health care paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

June 12, 2014

The House passed today two bills permanently reinstating three tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. Extending these provisions would cost about $75 billion. Because they approved these tax cuts without offsetting savings, the two bills would add about $95 billion to the deficit, including interest.

June 11, 2014

The International Monetary Fund recently published a study on budget institutions in G-20 countries. The study takes stock of these countries' progress in reforming their budget institutions and examines whether having strong budget institutions has helped countries tackle their budget challenges in the aftermath of the financial crisis. While it is difficult to measure the impact of institutional arrangements on budgetary outcomes, the IMF's verdict is that they do matter.

June 10, 2014

With the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) running low and the threat of disrupting highway construction later this summer, lawmakers are scrambling to come up with a short-term solution to add more money to the fund. However, a new Joint Committee on Taxation analysis shows that one popular idea to "pay" for the transfer – a tax holiday for corporations returning cash held overseas, or "repatriation tax holiday" – actually adds to the debt and therefore cannot be used as an offset.

June 10, 2014

Despite the noted acceleration in broader health care spending this year (likely due in large part to coverage expansions), Medicare continues to grow at an astoundingly slow pace.

June 9, 2014

For several years, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been suggesting ways to trim parts of the Defense budget to make room for other military spending. These recommendations have included modest cuts in benefits for active-duty servicemembers and veterans.  However, Congress has repeatedly rejected cost savings that rein in the benefits for servicemembers.

June 9, 2014

The individual mandate penalty is arguably the most controversial piece of the Affordable Care Act. It was the centerpiece of the legal challenge to the ACA, a challenge that made it to the Supreme Court, and it has been the subject of frequent debate in recent years. Yet, CBO's latest analysis of the mandate shows that the number of Americans actually expected to pay the penalty is small, even compared to the number of people remaining uninsured after the ACA's implementation.

June 6, 2014

The House Affordable Medicines Caucus recently launched by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Keith Rothfus (R-PA) already has plenty of ideas to reform our nation's drug policies and produce cost savings for both the federal government and beneficiaries. The latest edition of Health Affairs (subscription required), though, adds a couple more ideas to encourage more efficient use of prescription drugs.

June 5, 2014

In response to the recent VA scandal and hospital backlogs, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has proposed legislation that would address the situation and authorize additional funding for the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA). Congressional Quarterly's (subscription required) Alan Ota explains:

June 5, 2014
How to shrink America’s debt? Start small

Alice Rivlin is a former Director of the Congressional Budget Office and Office of Management and Budget. She has served as a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility (Simpson-Bowles) and a co-chair of Domenci-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force. She currently is on the board of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and is the Director of the Engelberg Center on Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution.

June 4, 2014

President Obama yesterday announced $1 billion for a European Reassurance Initiative to step up U.S. presence and planning in Central and Eastern Europe partially in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine. The idea itself may have merit, but what certainly does not is the source of the funding: war spending.

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