November 21, 2019

Continuing Resolution? Anomaly? Shut Down?

Since the federal FY 2019 budget (10/1/2018 – 9/30/2019) has now expired and Congress has not been able to come to agreement on a new budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, our government is currently being funded by a  Continuing Resolution (CR). Congress passed and the President signed a seven-week CR on Sept. 27 to keep the budget running until Nov. 21. The funding allocations during this time period were based on a rate or formula derived from the previous year’s funding – and will be used until the Congress and the White House reach agreement on a new annual budget.

As that CR expires on Nov. 21, Congress is also prepared to put another one in place that lasts until Dec. 21.  If our new national budget is not agreed on by that time, Congress will either put another CR in place or else there will be a shutdown, in which all federally funded services stop.

It has been less than a year since the US endured a 35-day shutdown between Dec. 22, 2018 and January 25, 2019 due to the inability of the Congress and the White House to agree on a new budget to pass.

Major efforts to get the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EtHE) initiative underway could be stalled indefinitely as a result of these budget complications. One way to avoid this is for Congress to design CRs that include carve-outs (usually called anomalies) for certain programs so they can continue as planned while the federal funding dispute remains unresolved. No anomaly for EtHE has yet been established but advocates and allies are working to bring that about. If this is successful – or if the FY 2020 budget is finally approved and implemented without further delay – EtHE will be able to move forward as planned.  If not, the program’s future is unclear.

 “Conscience Clause” Scheduled to be Enforced on 11/22 Is Now Overturned

Last May, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued a final rule allowing health care providers to refuse to deliver medical services that conflict with their religious beliefs or moral convictions. On November 6, however, a federal court in Manhattan overturned it.

Just two weeks before the rule’s Nov. 22 start date, US District Judge Paul Engelmayer concluded that DHHS had “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in proposing it. Instituted last May by DHHS, the Final Rule allegedly is designed to protect providers who oppose assisting with abortions, sterilization or assisted suicide. Legal challenges against the rule were rapidly brought by “more than two dozen states, cities and organizations.” These were subsequently consolidated into the case brought before Engelmayer.

Although they portrayed the rule as a way to protect religious freedom, Engermayer pointed out that, “nearly 80% of all the complaints given to the court were about vaccinations — unrelated to health care workers and their religious beliefs in providing care.” Only 6% “of the complaints that the government provided the court are even potentially related to providers’ moral or religious objections.”

DHHS said in their statement to the press following Engermayer’s ruling that, together with DOJ, they would be “reviewing the court’s opinion and so will not comment on the pending litigation at this time.”

View the latest Policy Update here.